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Leapfrog Group has recently released its semiannual Hospital Safety Grades, ranking care facilities nationwide on a myriad of metrics. While the nonprofit organization is devoted to better safety, quality and affordability for US health care, their recent findings have revealed that medical care in Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas may be going backward.

The survey content includes six major areas of safety with an A-F grading scale. These include inpatient care management, medication safety, maternity care, infections, inpatient surgery, and pediatric care. In the group’s most recent survey, Washington D.C. hospitals tied with Delaware and North Carolina as the worst in the country for patient safety—with none of the hospitals in these areas receiving an “A” grading on any subject. This stands in stark contrast to this spring’s report, when D.C. ranked 40th and had nearly 17 percent of hospitals with top marks.

One of the deficits of D.C.’s healthcare system is severely inadequate maternal care, which I previously discussed in an earlier post. Today, D.C. is considered the most dangerous place to give birth in the United States. This is particularly true for minority women; for every 13 white women who die because of pregnancy or childbirth related issues, 44 Black women die. On top of that, Washington D.C.’s maternal mortality rate is more than twice as high as the national average.  

A key factor contributing to D.C’s high maternal mortality rate is the sheer inaccessibility of medical care. Following the recent closures of multiple maternity wards in D.C., there are no labor and delivery services on the east side of the city whatsoever. This “maternity desert” prevents results in pregnant women not receiving adequate health care, especially because the hospital closest to home for some individuals may be an hour-long commute or more. This commute, combined with a lack of convenient transportation for individuals without cars, means that immediate care may not be accessible during urgent pregnancy complications.

In the nation’s capital, hospitals must do better. It is unacceptable for these health care facilities to be unprepared for common complications that occur during delivery, which includes conditions like high blood pressure, postpartum hemorrhage (or excessive bleeding), and blood clot formation. Moving forward, hospitals in the District need to take aggressive action to decrease the maternity mortality rate and strive to provide competent, save, and risk-preventative medical services.

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