Norton Audubon Hospital received an A in The Leapfrog Group’s fall round of grading for patient safety. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

Louisville hospitals received mixed marks, ranging from A to D, in the fall round of patient-safety grades from a national watchdog group.

The Leapfrog Group — whose list includes eight Louisville hospitals — gave top local marks to Norton Audubon Hospital and Norton Hospital, which both received As when the Hospital Safety Grades were released Thursday. That’s an improvement from the spring.

The lowest marks locally went to Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville Hospital, which both received Ds, as they have for the last several rounds of grading.

Jewish is part of KentuckyOne Health, which managed day-to-day operations at University of Louisville Hospital from 2013 until a split in 2017.

“During the past 16 months, we have taken a number of steps to improve our quality measures to better reflect our continual effort to deliver the highest level of care with the highest quality,” UofL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jason Smith, said in a written statement. “Unfortunately, our current Leapfrog grade still reflects a significant period of time when the current administrative team was not responsible for the daily operations at UofL Hospital.”

Leapfrog, a nonprofit organization, scrutinizes general acute care hospitals on 28 evidence-based measures of hospital safety, using information from its own Leapfrog Hospital Survey (which some hospitals don’t participate in); the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and some secondary sources. The data are weighted and combined to produce a single score represented as a grade (A through F).

Of more than 2,600 hospitals graded nationwide, only 6 percent received a D, whereas 32 percent got As, according to Leapfrog.

University of Louisville’s D is a reflection of below-average scores in several areas, including serious infections, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); surgery-related problems, such as dangerous blood clots, and death from treatable serious complications; patient falls; and safe medication administration. Responsiveness of staff also was deemed subpar.

Jewish scored below average in many of the same or similar areas. For example, it scored poorly on Clostridium difficile (C-diff) infections; the same surgery-related problems mentioned above; patient falls and safe medication administration. But Jewish scored above average on MRSA.

Jewish is part of a block of properties that KentuckyOne Health has been trying to sell for more than a year. Insider Louisville reported in September that a deal to save the hospital was in trouble and that some parties were preparing for the facility’s closure, but a hospital executive strongly denied plans for closure.

In response to the fall grades, KentuckyOne Health released a statement saying that it was “committed to delivering high-quality, safe care for the people of Kentucky. Across our facilities in Louisville, and throughout Kentucky, we have several quality, safety and patient satisfaction initiatives in place and underway to continue to improve the quality of care and safety delivered to all our patients.”

KentuckyOne also touted its South End hospital, Saints Mary & Elizabeth, which rose from a D in the spring to a C.

“We are already seeing improvements at many of our facilities, including the letter grade improvements at Saints Mary & Elizabeth Hospital and Jewish Hospital Shelbyville along with positive trends in scores for other sites,” KentuckyOne Health continued in its statement. “We also acknowledge that quality, safety and patient experience is an ongoing focus and believe we have programs and commitment in-place which will translate into improved Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades across our facilities in future publications.”

Leapfrog’s goal is to help consumers protect themselves and their families from dangers including errors, accidents, injuries and infections.

“Every elected official, from city councilors to senators, to the president, should hold hospitals accountable and support efforts to improve patient safety,” said Leapfrog Chief Executive Leah Binder in a news release.

Leapfrog did a red state versus blue state analysis as part of its fall grading and found that 33 percent of hospitals in traditionally blue states and 32 percent of hospitals in traditionally red states received As.

“Health care was an important issue in the 2018 midterm elections, yet both parties are still neglecting the third leading cause of death in America — errors and infections in hospitals,” Binder said.

Norton Brownsboro Hospital received a B, the same grade as in the spring. Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, which achieved an A last fall, received a B in this round of grading, the same grade as in the spring.

Norton Healthcare issued a statement from Dr. Steven Hester, a division president, saying the company’s work is paying off.

“Teams within the Norton Healthcare system use both internal benchmarks and external data from third parties to constantly improve the quality of care we provide our patients,” said Hester, who’s also the system chief medical officer. He noted, however, that Norton “will continue to work on areas for improvement.”

Baptist Health Louisville and Baptist Health LaGrange, which both received a C, issued a joint statement.

“Baptist Health La Grange and Louisville are committed to providing our patients and community with the highest level of care and safety possible,” the statement noted. “Leapfrog releases a safety score for hospitals calculated by using information from several publicly reported data sources. They also incorporate information from the Leapfrog Hospital Survey for those hospitals that participate in their survey process. Baptist Health La Grange and Louisville do not participate in the survey but we do consistently monitor and evaluate our outcomes.”

Across the river in Southern Indiana, Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany received a B. The former Clark Memorial Hospital, now known as Clark Memorial Health, in Jeffersonville received a C.

Darla Carter

Darla Carter

Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.