2012-03-09 / Top Stories

Report: St. John's Hospital In Bottom 20 In Patient Safety

By Miriam Rosenberg

According to a new report published this week by Consumer Reports St. John’s Episcopal Hospital ranks near the bottom of a list of 81 hospitals in the New York City area regarding issues of patient safety.

Consumer Reports, who only ranked one of Rockaway’s two hospitals, took into account four key measures of patient safety – hospital acquired infections, readmissions, and how well hospital staff communicates with patients about both medications and discharge planning. Peninsula Hospital wasn’t included in the study.

“We chose those measures because they provide the best collection of data available on patients,” Dr. John Santa, the director of the Consumer Reports Health Rating Center said.

There are 1,045 hospitals in the United States that keep data on all four safety factors used by the magazine. According to the article, ‘New York- Area Hospitals Do Poorly In Patient Safety,’ of the 50 lowest scoring hospitals nationwide 30 are in the New York area.

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital-South Shore rates among the 20 lowest scoring facilities at number 19.

The hospital’s spokesperson, Penny Chin told The Wave this week that old data from 2009 and 2010 was used for discharge and medications. Since then, Chin says, the Far Rockaway-based hospital has improved in those ranked areas. She also blames the use of a new New York State reporting system for high rates of infection.

“St. John’s Episcopal Hospital is concerned that Consumer Reports’ recently released report on patient safety does not accurately reflect the high levels of care provided,” said Chin, St. John’s director of Public Relations. “New York State has a comprehensive hospital acquired infection reporting system in which hospitals, including St. John’s, participate. The rating New York hospitals received is most likely a reflection of New York State’s more comprehensive reporting system.”

The Consumer Reports study puts St. John’s Episcopal Hospital at 48 percent worse than the national average for patient safety in hospitals. The facility has more hospital borne infections than the national average – specifically central line-bloodstream infections, which are usually caused by a mishandling of the catheters used to deliver fluids, medication, and nutrition to patients in intensive-care units; and surgical-site infections, which are infections that occur within 30 days of most surgical procedures or, in the case of implants, within a year. The rating reflects the worse of the two scores.

The poor rankings don’t stop there. St. John’s Episcopal also received the lowest possible rating in the study for readmissions and communications about both discharge instructions and medications.

“St. John’s readmission rating does not take into account the higher proportion of nursing home patients served,” said Chin. “St. John’s thoroughly evaluates every readmission for quality of care and has not identified any trends or concerns.”

She added that, “Regarding ratings on discharge and medication instructions, the data that Consumer Reports is drawing upon is from 2009 to 2010. Since then these measures have improved.”

Chin also said that the hospital “participates in an initiative called the Partnership for Patient Safety that works to reduce infections of the bloodstream and at surgical sites, as well as those linked to urinary catheters, ventilator associated pneumonia and readmissions.”

The latest information on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website seems to corroborate the Consumer Reports data. The department posts quarterly information from almost 4,000 reporting hospitals. Recent information shows that only 50 percent of patients reported that SJEH staff always gave them explanations prior to receiving medication.

The state average is 56 percent and the national average is 61 percent. Seventy-seven percent of St. John’s patients reported they were given information about what to do at home during their recovery. The state average is 80 percent and the national average is 82 percent.

The data for medication explanations and discharge instructions was taken between April 2010 and March 2011. The rate for readmission for heart attack and heart failure within 30 days of discharge was the same as the national average – 23 and 24 percent, respectively. Readmission for pneumonia is at nearly 24 percent for St. John’s and 18 percent nationally.

These percentages were calculated from Medicare data on patients discharged between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2010.

Not taken into account in Consumer Reports’ findings is the suspension, this past December, of the hospital’s laboratory permit by the New York State Department of Health for blood transfusion and related testing.

A DOH inspection found that the hospital failed to meet accepted standards for blood transfusion and blood bank services which, the agency said, put patient safety at risk.

On February 27 the hospital sent The Wave a statement concerning the blood bank.

“The staff of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital has made significant progress improving blood banking operations,” said CEO Nelson E. Toebbe. “All components of the clinical laboratory continue to support patient care.

Additionally, consultation and access to comprehensive quality control measures have been obtained from North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital Systems to further enhance services.”

Peninsula Hospital Center was one of 17 area hospitals that did not have complete data in all four categories to be rated by Consumer Reporters.

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