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Which Triangle hospitals are safest? Find out which ones got A’s.

UNC Rex Healthcare’s new Heart and Vascular Hospital in Raleigh has a specialized operating room for heart and vascular surgeries. Rex was one of just 59 hospitals across the country to receive an “A” grade in every scoring update since Leapfrog began its ranking system in June 2012.
UNC Rex Healthcare’s new Heart and Vascular Hospital in Raleigh has a specialized operating room for heart and vascular surgeries. Rex was one of just 59 hospitals across the country to receive an “A” grade in every scoring update since Leapfrog began its ranking system in June 2012. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Six Triangle hospitals received “A” grades in a biannual safety score issued Tuesday by The Leapfrog Group, a Washington nonprofit that assesses hospital safety and performance.

Leapfrog graded 2,632 hospitals nationwide, awarding A’s to 832, or about 32 percent. In North Carolina, 34 out of 78 hospitals rated received an “A” grade, or about 44 percent. Only one North Carolina hospital received a “D” and none got an “F” in the fall 2017 survey.

The “A” hospitals in the Triangle are: Duke University Hospital in Durham, Duke Raleigh Hospital, WakeMed Cary, UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, UNC Rex Healthcare in Raleigh and Johnston Health in Smithfield and Clayton.

Leapfrog assesses hospitals on 27 measures that weigh internal procedures, such as technology and hygiene, as well as patient outcomes, such as deaths and injuries. The data come from federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Centers for Disease Control, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the American Hospital Association and other sources.

A patient should never refuse emergency hospital care because of a hospital’s safety grade, but the grade can be used for planned procedures, according to Leapfrog. The organization said the key areas to look at are hand washing, patient falls and blood infections during a stay in intensive care.

WakeMed Health & Hospitals has renovated 13 maternity suites in Cary, originally built a quarter-century ago.

Rex was one of just 59 hospitals across the nation to receive an “A” grade in every scoring update since the ranking system started in June 2012. In some categories – such as leaving dangerous objects in patients’ bodies, hand washing, ordering medications by computer and sufficient nursing staff to prevent errors – Rex received the top available performance score. However, Rex was below the national average in other safety categories, such as Clostridium difficile bacterial infection, urinary tract infections during ICU stays, and accidental cuts and tears during surgery.

Leapfrog also provides grades for past years to track a hospital’s consistency, improvement and deterioration over time.

The past grades show that Johnston Health has improved from a “C” in 2014 to an “A” in the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2016.

UNC Hospitals had been receiving “C” grades in 2015 and the first half of 2016, but improved to “A” since the fall of 2016.

WakeMed Health & Hospitals flagship hospital in Raleigh, with the county’s only trauma center, has largely received “B” grades in recent years.

Duke Raleigh and Duke University Hospitals have received straight “A” grades since 2014. Duke Regional received a “B” this fall after a string of straight “A” grades since 2014.

The D grade went to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City. It received a B in spring 2014 and then C’s until now.

Because of unavailable data, Leapfrog is unable to assign a grade to military or VA hospitals, mental health hospitals, critical access hospitals, specialty hospitals, children’s hospitals and outpatient surgery centers.

Heidi Fisk has been ill for 6 years with kidney failure due to a condition called IgA nephropathy. She has twice planned a September wedding to Jerremie Duncan, her boyfriend of 7 years, only to be hospitalized from complications of her condition.

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski

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