North Hawaii, Kona hospitals earn ‘C’ grades

  • From left, nurses Hazel Bernado and Lori Jarenski do their bedside reporting during a shift change in front of patient Susan Hodgson Friday at Hilo Medical Center. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — Hilo Medical Center has received an “A” in hospital safety rankings released this week by the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the quality and safety of American health care.

Two other Big Island hospitals — North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea and Kona Community Hospital in Kealakekua — each received a “C,” an improvement for the former compared to grades released in the fall and a consistent grade for the latter.


According to Leapfrog, letter grades of A, B, C, D or F — which represent a hospital’s overall performance in keeping patients safe from preventable harm and medical errors — are assigned to more than 2,600 general acute-care hospitals across the country twice a year.

The grades are determined by using national performance measures of patient safety from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Leapfrog Hospital Survey and other supplemental sources.

Tandy Newsome, director of quality management at Hilo Medical Center, said she was not surprised by the “A” rating, which the hospital has received the past two years.

Patient safety is a top priority, she said.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jon Martell said Newsome “has put a lot of work into building a culture of quality here at the hospital.”

HMC isn’t seeking accolades, but rather is “seeking to deliver the highest quality care, and if it gets recognized, we appreciate (that),” he said. “If not, it’s not going to make any difference. We’re going to continue on with our safety and doing what’s best for the patients. Ultimately, that is the bottom line — what is best for the patient. And if you take care of that, the rest takes care of itself.”

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade evaluates metrics like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, blood and urinary tract infections; surgical complications like collapsed lungs, serious breathing problems, dangerous blood clots and accidental cuts and tears; practices to prevent errors, like ordering medication through a computerized system, hand-washing, and communication about medicines and discharge; safety problems such as bed sores and patient falls or injuries; and communication with doctors and nurses and the responsiveness of hospital staff.

HMC largely rated above average in most areas, but rated below average in ordering medications through a computer, safe medication administration and communication about discharge.

Data for some measures, like hand-washing, staff collaborations, effective leadership, having enough qualified nurses, and having specially-trained doctors for ICU patients, were not reported, according to the report.

“It speaks to the quality of care that we provide on our island in relationship to hospitals through the state,” HMC spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said. “It shows that we are providing excellent care on our island as it compares to other A-rated hospitals throughout the state. That speaks to our ability to care for patients on island and closer to home. We really want to take care of patients on our island.”

HMC also this week named a recipient of the Patient Safety Excellence Award by Healthgrades, an online resource for information about physicians and hospitals.

That award recognizes hospitals that have the lowest occurrences of 14 preventable patient safety events, and those hospitals are in the top 10% in the nation for patient safety, according to Healthgrades.

HMC was the only Hawaii hospital recognized for that distinction.

Leapfrog’s safety grade issued each year in the fall and spring. HMC has received an “A” in each report since the fall of 2016.

North Hawaii Community Hospital’s “C” is an improvement over last fall’s report, where it received a “D.” It was not scored in prior years.

A NHCH hospital spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kona Community Hospital received a “D” in spring 2016, but has received a “C” in all subsequent reports.

A phone call seeking comment from the Kona hospital was not immediately returned.


Elsewhere in Hawaii, Kaiser Foundation Hospital-Moanalua Medical Center in Honolulu, Straub Clinic and Hospital in Honolulu, and Pali Momi Medical Center in Aiea, Oahu, received an “A”; Castle Medical Center in Kailua, Oahu, The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, The Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu in Ewa Beach, and Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Lihue, Kauai, received a “B”; and Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku and Kuakini Medical Center in Honolulu received a “C.”

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