Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

BANGOR, Maine — Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center earned a national watchdog group’s top patient safety rating this spring — a notable increase compared to ratings from the last three years.

Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit national hospital quality evaluator, gave the Bangor hospital an A in its latest rating, which evaluates infections, problems with surgeries, safety issues, practices to prevent errors and hospital staff. EMMC has maintained a C rating for more than three years, and a grade was not listed for spring of 2022.

Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center’s jump from a consistent C rating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to an A rating is significant. It shows the hospital and Level II trauma center has made changes that benefit its patients, who come from central, eastern and northern Maine. The evaluation also points out areas for improvement.

“An immense amount of work went into achieving this score,” said Elizabeth Perry, director of performance improvement at EMMC, in a prepared statement. “Like many health care organizations, the pandemic presented us with the need to quickly review safety concerns, try new things and adjust.”

Leapfrog’s recent evaluation of EMMC provides scores for a range of subcategories under larger categories, such as “dangerous object left in patient’s body” and “surgical wound splits open” under the heading “problems with surgery.”

Death from serious treatable complications, falls causing broken hips and communication about medicines were noted as areas where EMMC performed worse than average, among others. The hospital performed better than average on ratings for accidental cuts and tears during surgeries, dangerous bed sores and having enough qualified nurses.

For several years, EMMC has worked to improve processes and communication so that patients are safer in the hospital and also benefit when they return home, according to the hospital.

Twice a year, the Leapfrog Group gives letter grade ratings to nearly 3,000  hospitals across the country. It asks every adult and free-standing pediatric general acute-care hospital and ambulatory surgery center to voluntarily complete a survey each year. The Leapfrog Group reports data to empower patients to choose the right hospital or surgery center for them, according to the nonprofit’s website.

St. Joseph Hospital, Bangor’s other general hospital, declined to respond to Leapfrog’s request for patient safety and quality data. The hospital earned a C in the fall of 2022, a decrease from its B rating in the spring of that year. It maintained a B rating in 2020 and 2021, according to data.

Eighteen other hospitals and surgery centers also declined to participate, including Millinocket Regional Hospital in Millinocket, Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, York Hospital in York, several eye care facilities and others.

Maine Medical Center in Portland earned an A rating this spring, which it has maintained for most of the last three years. The hospital received a B in the spring of 2020.

Leapfrog gave MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta a B rating in its recent evaluation, which marks a decline from the A it maintained throughout 2022. There was a mix of B and C ratings in 2020 and 2021.

Three of the 27 Maine hospitals that participated in Leapfrog’s survey received an A this spring, five received a B and five received a C. The rest did not have complete information yet.