At Saint Michael’s Medical Center, grade ‘A’ ranking is never taken for granted

Saint Michael’s Medical Center CEO Dr. Alan Sickles puts a lot of stock in the grade his hospital receives in the biannual Leapfrog survey, which measures patient safety.

For Sickles, it not only shows the type of care patients receive — but how much that care has improved.

This week, the hospital received an “A” grade, becoming the only hospital in Newark and all of Essex County to do so.

“The entire staff of Saint Michael’s is diligently focused on patient safety,” Sickles said. “This is a well-earned recognition that our staff can celebrate with pride.”

And, while it’s the sixth time the hospital has earned that grade in the last eight reports, dating back to fall 2018, it wasn’t that long ago that Saint Michael’s was at the other end of the scale.

In spring 2016, when Prime Healthcare purchased the facility, it received an “F.”

The next four grades: “D,” “D,” “C” and “C.”

Leah Binder, the CEO of the Leapfrog Group, an independent watchdog group, said the improvement is why the group pushes the survey.

“An ‘A’ safety grade is an outstanding achievement, and one that is not possible without a 24/7 effort by the entire health care workforce to protect patients from harm,” Binder said. “This community should be proud.”

Especially now, Binder said.

“As our health care system continues to feel the strain of the pandemic, I thank the workforce and leadership of Saint Michael’s for sustained commitment to patient safety, day in and day out,” she said.

The Leapfrog Group assigns a grade between “A” and “F” to general hospitals across the country based on over 30 national performance measures reflecting errors, accidents, injuries and infections, as well as the systems hospitals have in place to prevent harm.

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is the only hospital ratings program based exclusively on hospital prevention of medical errors and harm to patients. The grading system is peer-reviewed, fully transparent and free to the public. Grades are updated twice annually, in the fall and spring.

Joy Mitchell, the director of performance improvement at Saint Michael’s, was thrilled by the honor.

“This award reflects the dedication to quality demonstrated by the leaders and staff in the provision of care,” she said. “Everyone works toward achieving positive outcomes for our patients, and the recognition lets the team know they are on the right track.”

It’s not the only award that shows that.

In March, Saint Michael’s was recognized by Healthgrades as a 2022 Patient Safety Excellence Award recipient, which places Saint Michael’s among the top 5% of all short-term acute care hospitals as evaluated by Healthgrades.