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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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MWH gets ‘A’ grade in patient safety report; Stafford rates a ‘B’

Mary Washington Hospital.

Mary Washington Hospital has earned the top grade in a new national hospital safety report.

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization founded by some of the nation’s largest businesses, has given Mary Washington an “A” for its efforts to keep patients safe. Stafford Hospital received a “B” in the survey. The Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center is too new to be included in the ranking.

Leapfrog published its first listing of Hospital Safety Scores yesterday. The organization ranked 2,660 acute-care hospitals nationwide, including 59 in Virginia. Mary Washington was one of 24 Virginia hospitals to receive an “A,” the highest of five possible grades. Nationwide, about 28 percent of hospitals received an “A.”

“An ‘A’ is a great score,” said Erica Newman, communications manager for Leapfrog. “ ‘A’ hospitals are proven to be safer than hospitals who got a lower grade.”

Leapfrog based the scores on 26 publicly available hospital safety measures, including data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the American Hospital Association and the Joint Commission. The scores cover the period April 2010 through March 2011.

Mary Washington received top scores for its efforts to:

* Reduce the risk of infection after surgery, such as removal of a urinary catheter within 48 hours of surgery.

* Reduce the incidence of hospital-acquired infections, such as the proper care of a central line.

* Prevent in-hospital complications, such as pressure sores or accidental cuts or tears.

Stafford Hospital’s scores were similar to or better than Mary Washington’s. However, it scored lower on some items, such as the prevention of in-hospital complications following surgery.

Leapfrog, based in Washington,  was founded 10 years ago by companies such as GM, Boeing and FedEx, which were spending millions annually on their employees’ health care.

“They realized they were spending all this money and had no way of knowing if the care their employees were getting was good,” Newman said.

The group has published an annual hospital survey for several years, Newman said, but this is the first time it has created a composite ranking with letter grades

Even with the ranking, patients and their families are advised to be vigilant when in a hospital, Newman said.

“Lots of things can happen in a hospital,” she said. “Even hospitals who got an ‘A’ make mistakes.”

(The Leapfrog scores are  here.)