Trident earns ‘A’ for safety, ranks below average for some patient deaths

Trident Medical Center in North Charleston is the safety hospital in the area, according to new safety scores published by The Leapfrog Group.

Trident Medical Center patients will more likely die from serious, but treatable complications such as pneumonia or kidney failure after surgery than patients at other Lowcountry hospitals, but it’s still the safest hospital in the region, according to a new set of safety scores published last week by an independent watchdog group.

The Leapfrog Group gave Trident Medical Center the only overall “A” for safety in the area.

The grade considers how a hospital performed in 28 areas, including dangerous blood clots, serious breathing problems and handwashing. Some categories are assigned more weight in calcuating the overall grade.

“I am proud of our staff and physicians for this highly consistent commitment to patient safety and quality,” said Trident Health CEO Todd Gallati, in a prepared statement. “This rating by an independent third party gives our patients that extra level of confidence in our wonderful staff.”

Trident Medical Center, owned by the for-profit HCA Healthcare system, scored above average in almost every category, but ranked below average for preventable deaths among patients who develop serious complications following surgery.

For every 1,000 Trident patients who develop a serious, but treatable complication after surgery, an estimated 143 of them will die. Typically, only 119 of 1,000 patients die in other hospitals.

The Medical University Hospital scored slightly better than Trident in this category, but still ranked below average compared to other hospitals.

Summerville Medical Center, another HCA Healthcare hospital, scored the same as Trident for deaths from serious, preventable complications. The remaining Charleston area hospitals all performed above average in this category and earned either a “B” or “C” for overall safety. Kershaw Health Medical Center in Camden earned the only overall “F” in South Carolina.

“If a hospital has a low score on Leapfrog, I would certainly pay attention to that,” said Helen Haskell, a patient safety advocate. “I would pay a lot more attention to a low score than a high score.”

The Leapfrog Group publishes hospital safety scores twice a year. They are intended to offer consumers an easy-to-interpret safety snapshot, but experts like Haskell caution patients against using these scores — or any other hospital ranking system — in isolation. Some ratings are more valuable than others and some data used to calcuate a hospital’s rank (or grade or star rating) are typically limited and outdated.

They can also paint seemingly conflicting pictures.

For example, Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital earned five stars for patient satisfaction on the federal government’s Hospital Compare website a few weeks ago, but only got a “B” from The Leapfrog Group last week.

Spartanburg Regional Medical Center also earned a “B” for safety, but was named the best hospital in the state by U.S. News & World Report last summer.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.