Solano, Petaluma, Santa Rosa hospitals top North Bay medical safety survey

NorthBay VacaValley Hospital, Novato Community Hospital and Petaluma Valley Hospital are among the North Bay hospitals to receive an “A” grade in a national nonprofit’s assessment of the care they provide.

Rankings are released twice yearly by The Leapfrog Group, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for hospital transparency. It was founded in 2000 by a group of business leaders, and in 2012 launched the hospital safety reports.

The aforementioned hospitals receiving an “A” grade scored higher than in Leapfrog’s spring survey. Novato Community Hospital jumped from a “C,” while Petaluma Valley Hospital and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital rose from a “B.”

“These scores, and the improvements we continue to make, are just one small way of recognizing the care we provide. I’m very proud of our collective efforts,” said Nicole Brocato, vice president and chief quality officer at NorthBay Healthcare, whose hospitals include both NorthBay VacaValley and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield which, like in the spring, received a “C” grade. “We embedded in our strategic plan years ago that we would make patient safety a pillar of our culture and the NorthBay Way. We are not done … This is a continuous journey.”

Additional North Bay hospitals receiving an “A” include Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center and Adventist Health Ukiah Valley - all unchanged from the spring survey.

Leapfrog states on its website that its safety ratings are graded on the basics of medical care, such as hand-washing, entering prescriptions through a computer, and the availability of highly trained nurses. It also looks at preventive measures hospitals take to prevent falls, as well as the potential for blood infections. Patients who have a tube inserted into their body to deliver medication and other treatments are at high risk for developing a dangerous infection in the blood.

Three Kaiser Permanente medical centers scored a “B” grade in Leapfrog’s fall survey. Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center’s grade remained unchanged from the spring, while Kaiser Permanente’s medical centers in Santa Rosa and San Rafael dropped from “A” to “B.”

“Providing safe and high-quality care is our top priority, and we take our performance very seriously,” said Tarek Salaway, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente’s Marin-Sonoma region. “As an organization committed to continuous learning, we also recognize that there is no finish line when it comes to patient safety and quality of care. Our leadership actively reviews every Leapfrog grade and the underlying data. If we identify areas where performance is not up to our expected level of clinical excellence and quality of care, these areas will be quickly addressed.”

Leapfrog assigned a “C” ranking to a handful of North Bay hospitals, including Adventist Health St. Helena, down from a “B” in the spring; and Marin General Hospital (rebranded this year as MarinHealth Medical Center), which remained unchanged from spring.

But not all hospitals participate in The Leapfrog Group’s biannual surveys, which can result in a skewed assessment of those particular hospitals, according to both Sutter Health and St. Joseph Health.

In fact, Leapfrog states it assigns a grade to all general hospitals in the United States, whether they report to the survey or not. If a hospital does not report to the survey, the safety grade uses publicly available data from numerous secondary sources.

“While we fully support Leapfrog’s efforts to provide comparative information to the public, it is important to note that private reporting agencies - like Leapfrog - each have their own proprietary scoring methodologies, which can make reporting and results interpretation difficult and complex,” said Frank T. Beirne, interim regional COO, St. Joseph Health, Northern California. “The methodology Leapfrog uses to score hospitals does not fully align with the depth and richness of our quality processes, and as a result, we are choosing to discontinue our participation in The Leapfrog Group’s reporting platform moving forward,” Beirne said.

St. Joseph Health’s hospitals in the North Bay include Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, which was rated “C,” unchanged from spring; and Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, which dropped from “A” to “C.” The health care system’s Petaluma Valley Hospital jumped from “B” to “A,” as stated above.

Sutter Health, as it stated after the spring results were announced, didn’t participate this year in Leapfrog’s surveys, explaining the results don’t fully capture the quality of care its hospitals provide to patients.

“Instead, Sutter Health network facilities work with the Hospital Quality Institute and share quality data that demonstrates those facilities consistently outperform state and national averages for many measures of quality,” said Dr. Bill Isenberg, vice president of patient safety, Sutter Health.

As in the spring, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital received an “A” grade, while Sutter Solano Medical Center was ranked “C,” up from “D” earlier in the year. All North Bay area hospitals scored a “C” or higher.

Representatives from MarinHealth Medical Center and Adventist Health didn’t respond to requests seeking comment for this story.

Staff Writer Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, health care and education. Reach her at or 707-521-4259.

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