Nonprofit says most of the 52 Kentucky hospitals it grades on patient safety got Bs and Cs, and KentuckyOne got five Ds

Kentucky Health News

A nonprofit group that rates hospitals recently doled out its hospital safety scores and found that most Kentucky hospitals scored a ‘B’ or ‘C’ in overall patient safety, and that five of the six Kentucky hospitals that got Ds are owned by the same hospital system.

The Leapfrog Group, a non-profit organization that rates hospitals, evaluated more than 2,500 hospitals nationwide, including 52 in Kentucky. Most of Kentucky’s hospitals were not rated because rural critical-access hospitals don’t have to report their quality measures.

It found that 21.2 percent (11) of Kentucky’s hospitals got As, which was much lower than the national average of 31 percent, while 11.5 percent (6) got Ds, more than the national average of 6.3 percent. Additionally, 23 percent (12) got Bs and 44 percent (23) got Cs.

“Once again Kentucky had fewer ‘A’-rated hospitals than the national median and more hospitals rated near the bottom with increasing numbers of ‘D’s. More troublesome is the observation that five of the six hospitals receiving a ‘D’ are in the same hospital system,” Dr. Peter Hasselbacher, emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, wrote in an op-ed for the Kentucky Health Policy Institute blog.

Except Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, the Kentucky hospitals that got a D are owned or operated by KentuckyOne Health: Jewish Hospital, Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital and University Hospital in Louisville; and St. Joseph Hospital and St. Joseph East in Lexington.


Staffing cuts at the U of L Hospital have made it “unsafe” for seriously ill and injured patients, Dr. J. David
Richardson, vice chair of surgery and president of the
American College of Surgeons, told the university’s top health officials in an email on June 7. He said the public hospital has “never been
worse in the 34 years that I have been heavily involved with it,” reports Andrew Wolfson of The Courier-Journal.

“In an interview, Richardson said the problems are so great that the only
solution is to ‘unwind’ the 2013 agreement in which the state turned
over day-to-day management of the hospital to Catholic Health
,” Wolfson reports. He said the letter understated the problems, which are making it impossible to conduct academic research at the hospital.

The two University of Kentucky hospitals got Cs from The Leapfrog Report. Pikeville Medical Center is the only Kentucky hospital evaluated that has had straight As since 2013, when the study began. Click here for Kentucky’s Hospital Safety Scores.

KentuckyOne Health issued a statement saying University “is an excellent hospital with a dedicated
and talented team of professionals that is staffed to meet the patient’s
needs. Our focus has always been on quality, safety and patient

On Sunday, June 12, KentuckyOne and the university ran a full-page ad in The Courier-Journal saying they are “committed to ensuring safe and effective patient care” and “Safety and quality are our top priorities.” They said they take Richardson’s concerns “seriously, and we are committed to reviewing and addressing the issues noted.”

In 2012, when management of most of the hospital was given to KentuckyOne, “Officials said it would pump $1.4
billion into U of L health operations over 20 years. But the company has
had financial troubles ever since, and in February 2014 announced it
was laying off 500 employees in Kentucky,” Wolfson notes.

The Leapfrog Group’s analysis was developed under the guidance of the nation’s leading patient safety experts and the scores were based on 30 measures of publicly available hospital safety data. The ratings are issued twice a year, for errors, injuries, accidents and infections. The report is peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Patient Safety.

Hasselbacher noted legislation in Congress that would protect some hospitals from Medicare payment cuts if they serve more than average numbers of indigent and poor people.

“Care must be taken that this initiative, lobbied heavily by hospital organizations and their partners in academic medicine, is not interpreted to imply that is it acceptable to provide medical care of lower quality to poor people or in teaching hospitals,” he wrote. “The fact that this protection is being considered at all is a tacit admission that our current methods of measuring quality and safety are flawed.”

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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