This hospital is doing poorly when it comes to treating patients. This is not just a medical malpractice lawyers view of this facility. In 2018, a watchdog group released a report card for all Maryland hospitals. There was only a handful of hospitals that earned a “D”. Holy Cross was in the handful. This is the worst grade of any hospital in Montgomery County.
With that unpleasantness out there as a backdrop, let’s look at this hospital. Whereas Holy Cross Hospital has been around since 1963, the Germantown hospital is a brand-new facility that opened in 2014. One of the two has a long track record, while the other has practically none. Based on their self-descriptions, Holy Cross Hospital is a general hospital providing “a full range of inpatient and outpatient health care services,” while the new Germantown hospital is a “state-of-the-art facility [that] boasts the latest technology.”
What the two hospitals have very much in common is their connection through Holy Cross Health – “a Catholic, not-for-profit healthcare system dedicated to improving the health of our community.” Holy Cross Health, in turn, is a unit of Trinity Health of Livonia, Michigan – “one of the largest healthcare systems in the country,” and, likewise, a Catholic organization. Says the Maryland company’s mission statement: “We, Holy Cross Health and Trinity Health, serve together in the spirit of the Gospel as a compassionate and transforming health presence within our communities.”
In addition to its two hospitals, Holy Cross Health also is the parent company of Holy Cross Health Network, which operates health centers in Silver Spring, Gaithersburg, and Aspen Hill; and of Holy Cross Health Partners, which provides primary care in Kensington and at Asbury Methodist Village. In total, Holy Cross Health has 4,200 employees, serving over 230,000 patients in Maryland per year, and at last count had annual revenues of $515 million.
Holy Cross Hospital
Holy Cross Hospital takes pains to point out that it serves the young and the old — delivering the most babies of any Maryland hospital; and having founded the Seniors Emergency Center, “which has become a national model.” Holy Cross Hospital also cites its neuroscience program, its Cancer Institute, strong gynecological program, and leadership in providing emergency care. It proudly cites being the only Maryland hospital to have been rated four straight years as “Top Performer on Key Quality Issues” by the Joint Commission (the main hospital accreditation organization).
Holy Cross Germantown Hospital
Although just opened in October 2014, “Holy Cross Germantown Hospital provides the same high-quality, compassionate care” as Holy Cross Hospital, and, by its own account, is “state-of-the-art.” Located on the campus of Montgomery College, with which it partners, this hospital touts amenities such as green space outside and all private rooms inside. It calls attention to its full-service emergency department, its behavioral health unit, and surgical and maternity services.
Settlements and Verdicts Against Holy Cross
Holy Cross has not had a lot of verdicts in recent years. Clearly, bad malpractice verdicts would not help the image of his struggling hospital. Below is a list of settlements and verdicts in involving Holy Cross in recent years:
- 2009, Prince George’s County: $370,000 Verdict. A 32-year-old woman goes to Holy Cross Hospital complaining of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. The doctor recommends a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The procedure is performed, and two days later the woman is discharged. That same day she goes back to the doctor who performed the procedure, complaining of flank and abdominal pain. She is diagnosed with a small bowel obstruction and persistent bile leak, and transferred to Prince George’s Hospital where that same doctor is the chief of surgery. At PG Hospital, it is determined that the woman also has a right hepatic artery tear. She continues to leak bile, becomes septic, and undergoes numerous blood transfusions and surgeries before her release almost two weeks later. She brings a claim against the doctor, alleging that her common bile duct was damaged during the first surgery and that the doctor failed to realize this prior to discharging her. Additionally, she alleges that the doctor was negligent in his treatment of the woman and failed to refer her to a specialist. The doctor claims the woman was stable when he discharged her, but a jury awards the plaintiff $200,000 for medical bills, $60,000 for economic losses, $100,000 for non-economic damages, and $10,000 for loss of consortium.
- 2005, Montgomery County: $1,075,000 Verdict. A newborn infant suffers fetal distress and brain damage during child birth. His parents bring a claim alleging the failure to properly monitor and provide prenatal care. A jury awarded the family $1,075,000.
- 1995, Montgomery County:$1,653,911 Verdict. A pregnant female is discharged from the hospital due to undergoing false labor. Before her discharge, she is vomiting. Once she gets home, she begins to bleed and goes back to the hospital. On the way to the hospital, she gives birth to her son, who unfortunately dies during the birth as he is strangled by the umbilical cord. The woman brings a claim against the hospital, alleging failure to diagnose the progress of labor and the failure to perform proper tests to determine the stage of labor. The hospital admits liability but argues the extent of the damages claimed, and the award is reduced to $1,400,000 due to statutory caps.
Defense Verdicts for Holy Cross
Holy Cross has also won a number of defense verdicts:
- 2009, Montgomery County: Defense Verdict. Case against a gastroenterologist alleging failure to diagnose and treat patient after an aborted surgical procedure
- 2008, Montgomery County: Defense Verdict. Physician allegedly failed to accurately diagnose elderly man’s respiratory disease resulting in his death
- 2007, Montgomery County: Defense Verdict. Cast applied by orthopedic surgeon allegedly caused “cast burn” that went undiagnosed
- 2006, Montgomery County: Defense Verdict. Geriatric medicine expert allegedly failed to recognize and treat weight loss and urological complaints leading to decedent’s death
- 2006, Montgomery County: Defense Verdict. Neurologist and other treating physicians allegedly fail to diagnose patient’s Lyme’s disease
The common thread in all of these cases that went to trial is that there were many years ago. It seems that Holy Cross in the last seven or eight years has not been letting many, if any, medical malpractice claims go to trial.
Recent Lawsuits Against Holy Cross
In spite of the fact that Holy Cross is not letting many cases get to trial, Maryland medical malpractice lawyers continue to be file lawsuits against this hospital. This is a recent sampling:
- May 16, 2019: Johnson v. Holy Cross Health: doctors fail to assess airway before undergoing intubation, results in loss of speech
- April 23, 2019: Williams v. Holy Cross: medical staff drops baby which results in permanent injury
- January 2, 2019: Avery v. Holy Cross: knee replacement medical malpractice
- January 2, 2019: Adu v. Holy Cross: birth injury involving
shoulder dystocia medical malpractice
- January 16, 2018: Freeman v. Holy Cross: wrongful death of a newborn child
- February 24, 2017: Brown v. Holy Cross: pain pump misfil lawsuit
- August 2, 2016: McKenzie v. Holy Cross:
- July 27, 2016: Sullivan v. Holy Cross: torts/negligence; wrongful death
- February 3, 2016: Bern v. Holy Cross: negligence, medical malpractice
- November 6, 2015: Blackmon v. Holy Cross: negligence, medical malpractice
- July 22, 2015: Hussey v. Holy Cross: negligence, professional malpractice
- April 21, 2015: Sullivan v. Holy Cross: medical malpractice, professional malpractice
- March 30, 2015: McCorkle v. Holy Cross: negligence, medical malpractice
- February 19, 2015: Purnell v. Holy Cross: torts/negligence, medical malpractice
Objective measurements: U.S. News rankings
While Holy Cross Germantown has not had time to produce many metrics yet, Holy Cross in Silver Spring is another matter. For this hospital, it is possible to examine it on the basis of national comparisons.
A valuable tool for assessing the quality of hospitals – in this case, Holy Cross Hospital – is the annual ranking survey produced by U.S. News. This reputable news organization ranks U.S. hospitals based on data from nearly 5,000 facilities nationally. What’s notable about these rankings is that they are not just somebody’s opinion: U.S. News bases its scores on objective data allowing for apple-to-apple comparisons of hospitals. The objectivity of the numbers, plus the sheer number of hospitals surveyed, produces a decently reliable “factual” picture of how well a hospital performs against others in the survey.
The U.S. News 2016 survey ranked Holy Cross Hospital for 11 medical specialties and seven common conditions or procedures. Following are summaries of the survey’s findings, or “scorecards,” for each of these (total) 18 categories.
For cancer treatment, Holy Cross Hospital received an overall U.S. News score of 32.4/100 – its lowest score for all of the surveyed specialties, and a decidedly below-average national ranking. For some cancer-related metrics, it did very well: “best” for the use of advanced technologies; “high performing” for colon cancer surgery; and above average on patient safety. It was rated average in several other categories. Considering that Holy Cross received average-or-better rankings across the board, its very low overall ranking is a puzzle. For this and every other measured category (except gynecology), no specialists in the U.S. News surveys ranked Holy Cross as among the best in this field.
Diabetes & Endocrinology
In this category, Holy Cross ranked in the middle, with an overall score of 49.5/100. It scored “best” in the use of advanced technologies; better than average on patient survival (patients still alive 30 days after admission); and above average on patient safety.
Ear, Nose & Throat
For ear, nose and throat conditions, Holy Cross Hospital received another decidedly below-average overall score of 38.6/100. It ranked above average on patient safety, but average on nurse staffing levels and patient services. It is credited as a “certified provider of advanced trauma care” in this field (as well as for other specialties). But Holy Cross ranked worst on patients’ survival chances in this specialty.
Gastroenterology & GI Surgery
Holy Cross Hospital ranked in the middle for gastroenterology and GI surgery (overall score: 48.9/100). It scored above average on patient survival rates, patient safety, and in the use of advanced technologies; it scored average on nurse staffing and patient services.
Although a big provider of geriatric services, with a “very high” patient volume, Holy Cross Hospital earned a less-than-average overall score of 44.9/100. Recognized by the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA), and named an NIA-designated Alzheimer’s center, Holy Cross nonetheless still was named by zero percent of geriatric specialists as being among the best in this field. Perhaps that is because the hospital scores were average on patient services, nurse staffing levels, and patient survival rates. This hospital did rank above average on patient safety.
Holy Cross Hospital did very well in the field of gynecology, with high scores in various categories. And in this field, Holy Cross has earned a positive national reputation, named by a significant number of specialists as being among the best “for very challenging patients.” It ranked “best” in the use of advanced technologies, “best” in patient survival rates, and above average in patient safety. This hospital scored average on nurse staffing levels and patient services, but was ranked “very high” in terms of patient volume. Its very good numbers outweighed its average ones, giving Holy Cross Hospital a very positive overall score of 71.1/100 in the U.S. News rankings.
Holy Cross ranked just below the middle on nephrology (kidney) treatment, with an overall score of 47.1/100. Serving a relatively high volume of patients, it ranked better than average in the use of advanced technologies, and above average on patient safety. It scored average on nurse staffing levels, patient services, and patient survival rates.
Neurology & Neurosurgery
Holy Cross Hospital has a very busy practice in neurology and neurosurgery, serving a high volume of patients and earning a modestly better-than-average overall score of 51.3/100. It ranked average on patient services and nurse staffing levels, above average on patient safety and patient survival rates, and best in the use of advanced technologies. Holy Cross is recognized by the National Institute on Aging for its Alzheimer’s center, and is accredited by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers for its epilepsy center.
Despite these positive credentials, however, it was named by zero percent of the specialists in the surveys as one of the best in this field.
For orthopedics, Holy Cross had an overall score of 37.9/100 — a low-sided ranking. Yet for most metrics in the U.S. News survey, this hospital came in right on average – including for patient survival rates, knee and hip replacements, use of advanced technologies, and nurse staffing. Serving a relatively high volume of patients, it ranked above average on patient safety. With scores of average (or slightly better) across the board, it is notable that Holy Cross still should wind up with a below-average overall score: are some other factors pulling down the hospital’s record in orthopedics?
For the field of pulmonology (lungs), Holy Cross scored slightly on the better side of average (scoring 50.7/100 overall). Its patient volume was rated “very high.” For these many patients, this hospital ranked above average in patient safety and the use of advanced technologies; it ranked average on nurse st
affing rates, patient services, and patient survival rates.
In urology, Holy Cross Hospital ranked better than half the hospitals surveyed, with an overall score of 51.6/100. In the use of advanced technologies, it scored “best.” Unfortunately, because the hospital’s volume of urology patients was “low,” relatively few patients were getting the benefit of these technologies. Holy Cross ranked average in terms of nurse staffing, patient services, and patient survival rates; and above average on patient safety.
Ratings on common conditions
The U.S. News ranking system also scores hospitals on a number of common medical conditions and procedures, such as heart failure and hip replacement, thus providing another apples-to-apples way of comparing hospitals. For its most recent survey, U.S. News ranked hospitals for seven conditions or procedures. Holy Cross Hospital was ranked as “high performing” in three cases, and “average” on four.
It is striking, then, that in five of these seven categories, Medicare patients rated Holy Cross Hospital worst – the lowest possible ranking. (For two categories, U.S. News did not provide patient ratings.) Patients rated it worst even in the category of colon cancer surgery, for which U.S. News ranked the hospital “high performing.” The statistics do not readily reveal the reason, but there is something that patients find very dislikeable about this hospital.
Here is a breakdown of HCH performance for the seven ranked conditions, starting with the hospital’s three “high performing” categories.
Colon Cancer Surgery
Rated “high performing” by U.S. News on colon cancer surgery, but rated “worst” by its patients, Holy Cross Hospital presents a very confusing record. Treating a “very high” number of patients, it ranked “best” in terms of nurse staffing, and, very importantly, “best” in terms of patient survival rates (patients still alive 30 days after their procedure). Yet the hospital ranked “worst” in preventing readmissions – the number of those patients who had to return “unexpectedly” to the hospital 30 days after leaving it. Were patients unhappy about having to come back?
Holy Cross scored a rating of “high performing” on treatment for heart failure. Its “very high” number of patients received the “best” level of nurse staffing time – and, most importantly, it ranked “best” in terms of patient survival rates.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Holy Cross also was “high performing” on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, for which it serves a “very high” volume of patients. The hospital’s nurse staffing rate on this point was “best.” But its patient survival rate was “worse than average” – making that “high performing” rating a bit of a mystery.
For each of the next four categories of conditions or treatments, Holy Cross Hospital received “average” rankings from U.S. News – and “worst” ratings from patients:
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair
With “best” rates for patient survival (as well as for nursing staff time). Holy Cross Hospital might have seemed to deserve a higher than “average” overall ranking, although it did score average on preventing readmissions.
In the category of hip replacement, one may glean some possible reasons for the “worst” rating from this hospital’s patients. Holy Cross was ranked better than average on survival rates, and on preventing complications after surgery; the hospital was average on preventing readmissions. But it was “worse than average” on preventing post-surgical infections and rated “worst” in terms of preventing unusually long hospital stays.
Holy Cross performs a relatively high volume of knee replacements and ranked very well in some categories: “best” for preventing post-surgery infections, and better than average on preventing complications and prolonged hospitalizations. But patient survival rates in this category were “worse than average,” and on the matter of preventing readmissions – patients coming back within a week of discharge – it ranked “worst.”
Lung Cancer Surgery
What lung cancer surgery patients disliked so much about Holy Cross does not show clearly in the statistics: this hospital ranked “best” in patient survival rates – surely the most important stat of all. The hospital ranked “best” on nurse staffing levels, average on preventing readmissions, and “worse than average” on preventing prolonged hospital stays. A recurring pattern in the U.S. News data is that Holy Cross patients stay in the hospital a long time, and often have to return for treatment after being discharged.
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