Shore Medical Center in Somers Point. Monday July 13, 2015.

A national report that grades hospital safety says some South Jersey hospitals improved their marks dramatically even as New Jersey on average took a sharp dive.

One-third of New Jersey hospitals earned weaker grades in this year’s first Hospital Safety Score national report card. The LeapFrog Group, a nonprofit patient-advocacy organization, released its semi-annual report Monday.

AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus and AtlantiCare Mainland had some of the biggest improvements among all hospitals since the fall, with the two locations earning A grades.

Although it scored among the 23 hospitals with the highest marking, AtlantiCare officials said be cautious of ranking reports.

“Hospital letter grades and reports that pull data from several different sources, sometimes using data that is years old, don’t always reflect the care and experience we and other hospitals currently provide,” said Joan Brennan, AtlantiCare senior vice president of quality and performance excellence.

Both AtlantiCare hospitals received Cs in the fall report based on publicly available information from 2013, which made the information a few years old.

The health-care network did not participate in the survey last fall or this spring. The hospital network gives LeapFrog access to its QualityNet Hospital-Specific Report data for the safety report.

Shore Medical Center in Somers Point also earned an A, which has been its consistent grade for the previous four reports.

“We’re very proud of the staff and everyone here,” said Valeria DeJoseph, Shore administrative director of quality, performance improvement and regulatory. “It’s a daily team effort from top to bottom.”

DeJoseph credits the culture at Shore for the hospital’s organization and care of its patients throughout the years.

Monday’s report used survey data from 2015, secondary data sources such as individual hospital reports and federal data.

The Shore health care center experienced a patient safety issue earlier this year when it notified 213 patients that they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C through a former employee’s blood. The employee who was allegedly responsible was fired in September 2014 after Shore discovered the issue. Patients were notified in February 2016 after an Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office investigation.

The Prosecutor's Office filed charges in January. The case is ongoing.

Other area hospitals, including Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May Court House, Inspira Medical Center Vineland and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, maintained the same grades earned in the fall report. Cape Regional and Southern Ocean both earned C grades, while Inspira maintained a B.

This year, report researchers added several new measures for grading. These included results from patient surveys about communications regarding medicines and discharges, nurse and doctor communications and responsiveness of hospital staff.

Brennan said patients and South Jersey residents should use the hospital safety report grades in addition to other state and national reports to make health care decisions.

Kerry McKean Kelly, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association, also recommended other state and federal resources, including Hospital Compare through the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, as well as consulting with friends, neighbors and family for information.

“It can be useful info for health care consumers, but it should not be the only source of information when making health care decisions,” Kelly said of the LeapFrog report. “The fact that results changed rather significantly when they began to use different methodology shows variation that can occur from one report to the next.”

The state’s overall ranking in hospital safety dropped from fifth place to 22nd, but Kelly said that may be due to the additions and changes in how hospitals were graded for the spring 2016 report rather than a decline in hospital safety throughout the state.

“We do think our current standing has to be looked at through the lens of major changes in the report,” Kelly said. “You can’t compare to where we were in the fall. But when it comes to patient safety, the work is never done. We’re always trying to improve.”

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