Only one Tucson-area hospital earning an ‘A’ by watchdog group

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One Pima County hospital has earned an “A” from a national watchdog organization that grades hospital safety twice each year.

Northwest Medical Center, which is owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, scored the highest marks available with the Leapfrog Group. There were five Arizona hospitals that earned an A, compared to 11 in the spring.

“I am incredibly proud of the team at Northwest Medical Center and the unrelenting focus they place on patient safety and quality care,” said Brian Sinotte, market chief executive officer with Northwest Healthcare.

“This is the fourth ratings period in a row that Northwest Medical Center has received an ‘A’ grade, proving that even during the challenges of the pandemic, this team remained committed to doing the right thing for our patients.”

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This is the 10th anniversary of Leapfrog offering hospital safety grades, providing a letter grade to about 3,000 U.S. general hospitals based on how well they protect patients from preventable medical errors, accidents, injuries, and infections.

Oro Valley Hospital, which earned an A in the spring and is owned by the same company as Northwest Medical Center, dropped to a B grade this fall.

Tucson Medical Center, and Carondelet St. Joseph’s and Carondelet St. Mary’s hospitals, also each earned a B grade while Banner-University Medical Center Tucson and Banner-University Medical Center South both earned C grades.

Banner spokeswoman Rebecca Ruiz McGill provided the following statement in an email about the findings: “At Banner-University Medicine Tucson, we hold ourselves to the highest standard and continuously strive to improve safety and the patient experience within our two academic medical centers, Banner-University Medical Center South and Banner-University Medical Center Tucson. Our hospitals and clinics serve the Tucson community providing complex, specialty care.”

Hospital rating programs “often paint an incomplete picture of the overall patient experience, population served and complexity of care,” the Banner statement reads. “These factors tend to skew results for hospitals like Banner-UMC Tucson and South, when they are compared to other community hospitals.”

No feedback was provided by the Carondelet Health Network or Tucson Medical Center.

This year’s national report included encouraging pre-pandemic progress on health-care-associated infections, including:

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) decreased by 22%;

Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) decreased by 43%;

Clostridioides difficile infection (C. Diff) decreased by 8%.

“Never in history have we seen across-the-board improvement in patient safety until this last decade, coinciding with the history of the Hospital Safety Grade,” said Leah Binder, CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “We salute hospitals for this milestone and encourage them to accelerate their hard work saving patient lives.

Nationwide highlights from the fall 2022 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade include:

Thirty percent of hospitals received an A, 28% received a B, 36% received a C, 6% received a D, and 1% received an F;

The top 10 states with the highest percentages of A hospitals are New Hampshire, Virginia, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maine, Pennsylvania and Florida;

There were no A hospitals in the District of Columbia, North Dakota or Vermont.

The reports, which offer patients a snapshot of hospital safety, focus on how well medical facilities avoid preventable errors, accidents, injuries and infections using over 30 safety measures. The information is available online at

The Leapfrog findings are based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data, found on its Care Compare website, as well as a voluntary Leapfrog survey.

The 10 areas covered on CMS surveys include communication with nurses, communication with doctors, responsiveness of hospital staff, communication about medicines, discharge information, care transition, hospital cleanliness, quietness, overall rating and how willing patients are to recommend the facility.

Hospital officials have criticized Leapfrog reports because of lag time between when the data is collected and the score is given, and have also said the grades should not be the only way to judge a hospital’s safety.

Patients interested in learning more about a hospital can also check a federal report called Hospital Compare.

While partnering on a virtual reality training scenario, Ash Watkins, left, clinical trainer, and Shane Elfering, registered nurse, get set up for a virtual reality training scenario at Tucson Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz. on June 27, 2022. TMC, in partnership with 3lbXR, is piloting a new virtual realty training program for nurses, patient care technicians and environmental services staff aimed at addressing high-risk and problematic tasks as well as work responsibilities in a health care setting.

Rebecca Sasnett

Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 520-235-0308 or [email protected].

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