Hospital safety improves, but regional variation persists

While New Jersey moves up in rankings, some hospitals are falling behind

Leapfrog, a hospital-safety watchdog group, recently released its biannual ranking of the states with the safest hospitals. According to NJ Advance Media, the overall report delivers good news for New Jersey, which moved up from seventh to fourth place for the safest hospitals in the country. However, the report also noticed wide regional variation, with many hospitals in the state still falling well below acceptable safety standards, which could result in cases of hospital errors and medical malpractice.

Improving safety

Overall, New Jersey performed well, with 52.2 percent of its hospitals receiving an A grade, while 27 percent got a B, 19 percent got Cs, and 1.5 percent a D. Maine, Massachusetts, and Virginia took the top three spots, respectively.

The authors of the report say that overall safety is improving at hospitals nationwide, with medical staff more consistently washing their hands and prevention measures being improved nationwide.

Some hospitals backsliding

The news was not all good, however. Within New Jersey, quality seems to be largely dependent on region. Newark, for example, continues to lag well behind the rest of the state in terms of hospital safety, with all but one hospital in the city receiving C and D grades. Additionally, 10 hospitals performed worse in the rankings compared to earlier this year.

There are also some unsettling results nationally. According to NJ Spotlight, although prevention improved, hospitals performed worst on some outcome measures, including on infections occurring during major colon surgical procedures. Leapfrog also warns that an A grade is no guarantee of safety, pointing out that the Texas hospital where the first U.S. ebola patient recently died and where two nurses contracted the disease had received an A rating in the survey. Overall, the group says that 1,000 people die in the U.S. daily due to preventable hospital errors and that infections occur in approximately one out of every 25 patients.

Medical malpractice

While the above story does give some good news about hospital safety in New Jersey, it is important to keep in mind that mistakes continue to happen, even at some of the top-rated facilities. Furthermore, as the case of Newark shows, not all hospitals in New Jersey are keeping up with improving safety standards.

Of course, patients should not have to rely on a rating system to determine whether one hospital is safer than another. All hospitals, no matter where they are, have a duty to provide the very best care and treatment. Anybody who has suffered as a result of potential negligence or malpractice at a hospital is likely feeling confused and angry. Such patients should look to a medical malpractice attorney for advice about what their legal options may be and whether they may be entitled to compensation to help them cope with the pain and suffering caused by any potentially negligent behavior.