Conni Aschauer, a registered nurse, sorts out the various wires of a networked, state-of-the-art cardiac monitor in the emergency room of Oro Valley Hospital, the only local hospital to receive the top grade in new ratings.


One Tucson-area hospital received a top grade of A for patient safety in a first-ever national score card on hospital errors, accidents and infections released today by a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group.

Oro Valley Hospital in Oro Valley was the top-scoring Tucson-area hospital, according to The Leapfrog Group. Seven Tucson-area hospitals were graded.

Carondelet St. Mary's in Tucson earned a score of B.

The other five local hospitals in the report scored a C. They are: Northwest Medical Center, Carondelet St. Joseph's, the University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus, the UA Medical Center-South Campus and Tucson Medical Center.

The Leapfrog group is run by employers and other large purchasers of health benefits. Hospital scores were calculated using publicly available data on patient injuries, medical and medication errors and infections, the score card authors say.

They say the grades were calculated under the guidance of a nine-member panel of national patient safety experts. The panel included medical experts from the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and the University of California-San Francisco, among others.

Hospitals were awarded scores of A, B, C, D or F. No hospitals in Arizona earned a D or an F. A grade for Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff was still pending, The Leapfrog Group said.

Eight other hospitals in Arizona earned A grades in the report. Of the 2,652 general hospitals issued a Hospital Safety Score nationwide, 729 earned an A, 679 earned a B, and 1,243 earned a C or below.

"Carondelet St. Mary's Hospital is clearly an advanced medical center, rich with expertise and committed to quality outcomes and patient safety," said Dorothy Sawyer, senior vice president and chief executive officer of Carondelet St. Mary's.

Pleased by Oro Valley grade

"We are pleased to see Oro Valley Hospital listed as an A hospital, and we will work with other hospitals in our community so our local hospitals can achieve straight A's in the future," said Larry Aldrich, executive director and chairman of the Arizona Business Coalition on Health, which is an employer-member coalition that focuses on health and wellness. "We believe the people in Tucson will find this information very valuable," he said.

According to The Leapfrog Group, more than 400 people die in the U.S. each day because of a hospital injury, infection or error.

Aldrich said he hopes the report is used locally to educate the public about patient safety and on taking precautions when admitted to a hospital. He also hopes the scores will result in improved hospital safety in the community.

Aldrich noted that unlike many companies that produce national health-care and hospital rankings and score cards, The Leapfrog Group is a nonprofit organization.

"Developing the Hospital Safety Score was an intensive nine-month process of deliberation by a very thoughtful and informed group of experts in patient safety from across the country, and it resulted in what we consider the fairest way possible to assess a hospital's performance," panel member Dr. Ashish Jha of Harvard said in a written statement.

"We in academia know what information to use when we are admitted to a hospital, and we believe nonexperts deserve the same information to protect their families," Jha said.

Focus on quality, safe care

In the Tucson area, Northwest Medical Center spokeswoman Kimberly Chimene said: "We have not had the opportunity to review the Leapfrog survey, methodology or the results, but our focus at Northwest Medical Center every day is in providing high-quality, safe care to our patients.

"This commitment is evidenced by the numerous centers of excellence designations we have received from national accreditation agencies. However, attention to patient safety never stops; we consistently work with our employees and our medical staff to continually improve safety and enhance the quality of care we provide to our patients," Chimene said.

The for-profit Northwest and Oro Valley hospitals share a parent company: Community Health Systems of Nashville.

Officials with Carondelet said they are using principles developed in the nuclear, aviation and military sectors to create an error- free environment and that training efforts in their "high reliability organization" model will be complete by the end of June.

Tucson Medical Center and the University of Arizona Health Network did not respond to the Hospital Safety Score results.

Not all hospitals covered

The Hospital Safety Score reports only on general hospitals, not on specialized hospitals such as critical access hospitals or children's hospitals. There is no score for hospitals that do not report enough data publicly. Many rural general hospitals did not report enough data to obtain a score.

"All hospitals should report data on their safety, because the public deserves to know how they are performing. That's a top priority" for legislation, said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group.

Recent studies show one-fourth of Medicare patients will leave a hospital with a potentially fatal issue they didn't have prior to hospitalization. On average, one medication error per day occurs for each hospitalized patient, and more than 180,000 Americans die every year from hospital accidents, errors and infections, Binder's group says.

"It is time for a game changer," said David Knowlton, chair of The Leapfrog Group's Patient Safety Committee.

The Leapfrog Group's membership of employers and other purchasers of health benefits, along with business coalitions on health across the country, say they will work to engage communities, employers, health plans and hospitals in using the Hospital Safety Score to improve safety.

The score will be reissued using updated data in November, with an annual Hospital Safety Score to follow in 2013 and beyond.

Head of the class

Arizona hospitals with an A score on patient safety:

• Arrowhead Hospital, Glendale

• Banner Baywood Medical Center, Mesa

• Banner Desert Medical Center, Mesa

• Mayo Clinic Hospital, Phoenix

• Oro Valley Hospital, Oro Valley

• Payson Regional Medical Center, Payson

• Scottsdale Healthcare - Osborn, Scottsdale

• Scottsdale Healthcare - Shea, Scottsdale

• Yavapai Regional Medical Center- East, Prescott Valley

Source: 2012 Hospital Safety Score, from The Leapfrog Group

On the net

For more information on the Hospital Safety Score, or to find out the score of a hospital, visit

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at or 573-4134.