AUGUSTA — MaineGeneral Medical Center continues to get a C grade from an independent rating agency for hospital safety, but the hospital’s chief medical officer says those ratings have yet to reflect fully the safety experience at the new hospital.

MaineGeneral combined inpatient services in Waterville and Augusta into a newly built hospital that opened Nov. 9, 2013, in Augusta.

“None of the metric periods are all the new hospital,” said Dr. Stephen Diaz on Wednesday. “We can keep working (on improvement), and in two years it will be recognized.”

The grades, on the The Leapfrog Group’s rating site, were announced this week by the Maine Health Management Coalition. MaineGeneral Medical Center has received a C from the group since fall 2013; dropping from a B in both fall 2012 and spring 2013. It received an A in fall 2012.

The letter grades given to more than 2,500 general hospitals were released by the group, which describes itself as “an independent nonprofit organization representing employers and purchasers of health care.”

Eleven hospitals in Maine, including Inland Hospital in Waterville and Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, received an A, the best rating. In southern Maine, Maine Medical Center got a C, Mercy Hospital in Portland got a B, York Hospital got an A, and SMHC Sanford Medical Center got a B.

The score focuses on hospital errors, injuries and infections. The time period evaluated varies by category, with some data covering July 2010 to June 2012, some from January 2013 to June 2014 and some spanning April 2013 to March 2014.

“Hospitals must consistently demonstrate their capability to prevent harm in order to earn the trust of their patients,” said Andy Webber, CEO of the Maine Health Management Coalition in a news release about the scores.

Other organizations rate hospital performance as well, including The Joint Commission, a national accrediting body, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which offers “Hospital Compare,” allowing consumers to directly compare hospital performance in specific areas.

Diaz said The Joint Commission recognized MaineGeneral recently as a top performer for work on the hospital’s inpatient side.

MaineGeneral serves a large population. For the month of March, for instance, it reported providing 38,222 services to inpatients and 118,359 services to outpatients.

Those services include doctor visits, laboratory draws, imaging tests and other procedures.

In The Leapfrog Group ratings, MaineGeneral received high scores — represented by an arrow in a green field — for all categories of “staff follows steps to make surgery safer” and generally poor scores — four out of five arrows in the red zone — in the area of “safety problems with surgery.”

Mixed scores were in the “infections and safety problems” area.

“We’re working very hard, and when they start including measurements (from the new hospital), you’ll see improvement,” Diaz said.

Last fall, a year after the new hospital opened, hospital officials said changes at the new hospital meant fewer patient falls and a 20 percent reduction in the incidence of hospital-acquired infection. But CEO Chuck Hayes also acknowledged that there were long wait times in the emergency rooms when the hospital first opened and that some people were turned away and sent to other hospitals.

Patient reviews were mixed as well, with some complimenting work by physical therapists and doctors, while others described long wait times in the emergency room.

Diaz said he anticipates the greatest improvement in patient experience will come in the areas of quietness and cleanliness because all patient rooms contain only one bed and the physical plant is new.

“Teamwork and training have really improved as we rebuilt our teams,” Diaz said.

MaineGeneral, like all hospitals, he said, focuses on improving its results in high risk procedures in order to decrease morbidity and mortality.

MaineGeneral remains on the preferred-provider listing for the Maine State Employee Health Commission and others, Diaz said.

The State Employee Health Commission also scores hospitals for effective care, safety, patient safety and experience, and cost.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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