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Report Finds ‘Safety Problems’ At Rhinelander, Woodruff Hospitals

Ascension/Tom Weaver

Two Northwoods hospitals have patient safety problems, according to a report from a national hospital watchdog group.

The Leapfrog Group gave Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander and Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff “D” grades in a report this month.  The hospitals were among just four in Wisconsin with “D” grades.

Leapfrog Director of Operations Erica Mobley said the ratings are based on preventable deaths in hospitals.

“Upwards of 200,000 people are dying every year due to preventable harm in the hospital.  There are fortunately groups like ours that are out there that are trying to educate the public about the safety of the hospitals in which they’re entrusting their lives,” she said.

Just nine percent of American hospitals got “D” or “F” grades.

“Patients should know that these are hospitals that have been shown to have some safety problems, so they should talk to their doctors and nurses and hospital administrators to ask what that hospital is doing to keep them safe,” Mobley said.

Mobley still recommends patients go to the nearest hospital in the case of an emergency.

Ascension operates both hospitals.

Dr. Lisa Benson, Ascension Wisconsin’s Chief Medical Officer, responded to the report in a statement.

“We are committed to providing quality care to all our patients, and supporting transparency through publicly available reports.  While we do not formally participate in the Leapfrog survey, we are committed to continuous improvement in how we deliver care.  We expect our improvements to be reflected in future publicly available reports,” Benson said.  “We are grateful for the support of the communities we are privileged to serve and the caregivers who inspire our work.”

Across the country, hospital grades are improving.

“We’ve been doing the safety grades for over seven years now, and, generally, we are seeing hospitals making some improvements.  That was one of the biggest goals when we started this initiative,” Mobley said.

Ascension St. Clare’s Hospital in Weston got a “C” grade and Aspirus Wausau Hospital earned a “B” grade.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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