Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center’s safety grade slipped to a C in the nonprofit Leapfrog Group’s fall report of hospital safety rankings released Thursday, after earning its first A from the organization in the spring.

The grade is largely based on 2016-18 data, however, which predates what Christus St. Vincent administrators call a “cultural shift” since Lillian Montoya became president and chief executive in June 2018.

“I think we would be at a B-plus or A again” if the grade were based on up-to-date data, said James Marx, the hospital’s executive director of quality, risk management, patient safety and reliability.

More than 2,600 hospitals were graded by the Washington, D.C.-based Leapfrog Group, which monitors health care quality and safety across the U.S.; 33 percent of hospitals earned an A, 25 percent a B, 34 percent a C, 8 percent a D and just under 1 percent an F.

The only hospitals in New Mexico that earned an A were Lovelace Women’s Hospital in Albuquerque and Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces.

Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center, which opened in October 2018, was not included in the report because it has not operated long enough to collect sufficient data.

Christus St. Vincent scored worst in the category of urinary tract infection and below average when it came to patient falls and blood clots.

Marx said substantial improvements have been made this year in all three areas. The hospital has had no cases of post-operative blood clots in 2019, he said. “We have seen a 50 percent decrease in the fall rate.”

In July, the hospital installed a TeleSitter system that has 15 mobile cameras to remotely monitor patients — and communicate with patients to prevent a potential fall.

“Basically, on a daily basis, on an hour or two-hour basis, we are preventing falls,” Marx said.

Christus St. Vincent keeps seeking alternatives to catheters to prevent urinary tract infections, he added, and has “seen a significant decrease.”

The Leapfrog report card covers 28 categories in the areas of infections, problems with surgery, practices to prevent errors, safety problems and staffing. The nonprofit more heavily weighs computerized medication ordering, safe medication administration and some types of infections, said Erica Mobley, Leapfrog’s operations director.

“Medication errors are the most common errors with hospitals,” she said. “In some cases, medication errors can be fatal.”

Christus St. Vincent received a top score of 100 for doctors ordering medications through a computer system but scored below average — 75 — when it came to safe administration of medication, which involves placing bar codes on wristbands and medication.

The organization consistently has given the hospital average scores since 2016 for how its doctors, nurses and staff communicate with patients, based on patient surveys.

But Monica Leyba, the hospital’s chief nurse executive, believes this too has improved dramatically since Montoya instituted a concept she calls “rounding” — doing rounds, visiting patients and talking to staff. Montoya makes rounds herself and insists that all levels of administrators and managers engage in the practice.

“We make a great effort to engage with the workforce,” Leyba said.

The focus has been on patient safety, she added.

“Leaders have a safety huddle every day at 8:30 a.m.,” Leyba said. “That is the shift in culture. We are comfortable bringing up issues.”

On the web

• For more information about the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report, or to see how a local hospital fared, visit leapfroggroup.org.

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