California Hospital Medical Center in South Park and Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Torrance have received a “D” grade for patient safety from patient watchdog Leapfrog Group.

Patient Volume Spurs Hiring Drive

It’s been nearly a year since Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital opened in South Los Angeles, filling a gap in the Willowbrook neighborhood left when King Drew Medical Center closed in 2007.

Thus far, patient volume has been in line with projections, but MLK’s emergency department has seen twice the number of patients it planned on accommodating when it opened.

“We’re busier than we thought we’d be,” said Tobey Robertson, a spokeswoman for the hospital. “From the minute we opened our ED, we knew we were needed in this community. There’s no doubt about it.”

Robertson said MLK, which has more than 900 employees, is now sorting through thousands of applications to make more hires and meet the demand.

Dr. Medell Briggs-Malonson, senior medical director of quality at MLK, said the hospital’s internal scrutiny kept it on track and pointed to the institution’s practice of Lean Six Sigma, a process-improvement methodology employed by large corporations such as Toyota Motor Corp. and General Electric, as a factor in helping the hospital identify areas of potential and growth related to patient care and experience.

“We go above and beyond to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do to make sure our patients are receiving the care they deserve,” Briggs-Malonson said.

− Natalie Schachar

The assessment, released last week and based on a survey that tracked nurse communication, patient discharge information, and staff responsiveness, among other factors, is issued biannually by the Washington, D.C., nonprofit.

“There are still opportunities for improvement and opportunity really exists in every hospital to some degree,” said Dr. Matt Austin, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, who conducted the analysis, noting that the study only measured criteria related to rates of preventable harm.

California Hospital Medical Center also received marks below the national average for hand hygiene, while Harbor UCLA got a low score for preventing patient falls and trauma, among other faults.

The analysis, part of an examination of more than 2,500 hospitals across the country, found a 50 percent higher risk in “D” and “F” hospitals than in “A”-ranked hospitals on measures that could be linked to patient harm, which included falls, infection rates, and foreign objects in bodies.

California Hospital Medical Center, a unit of San Francisco’s Dignity Health, took issue with Leapfrog’s methodology.

“We continue to be concerned that the Leapfrog Group’s approach oversimplifies the complex task of measuring and improving quality,” a statement from the hospital reads. “The measures identified by the Leapfrog Group for improving quality and patient safety may help improve patient safety outcomes, but they are neither the best nor the only indicators of an institution’s quality.”

Dr. Clinton Coil, chief quality officer at Harbor UCLA, said that the medical center is taking the report seriously.

“There are so many ways we’re being rated and from different directions,” Coil said. “Many of these are areas we were already aware of, already tracking, and have corrective programs in place for.”

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which did not participate in the assessment and received a “C” from Leapfrog, also disputed the validity of the conclusions, saying the results were biased against hospitals that did not take part in its survey. In a statement, Cedars said the Leapfrog survey relies on self-reported data and is not subject to any outside audit or validation.

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