Five Queens hospitals are among the lowest-scoring facilities in the metropolitan area when it comes to patient safety, based on a report released last week by Consumer Reports.
The study evaluates 1,045 hospitals around the country that provided data on four safety measures. Of the 50 worst in the country, 30 were in the New York City area.
Forest Hills Hospital, an affiliate of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, ranked third worst; followed by Jamaica Hospital in ninth worst place; Flushing Hospital in 13th; St. John’s Episcopal in the Rockaways in 19th; and New York Hospital Queens in Flushing in 25th.
The two Queens city-run hospitals, Elmhurst Hospital Center and Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, as well as Peninsula Hospital in the Rockaways, were not included in the rankings because there was insufficient data on all four safety measures.
But the two city-run facilities did poorly on the categories that were reported.
Consumer Reports examined four measures of patient safety: hospital-acquired infections, readmissions and how well hospital staff communicates with patients about both medications and discharge plans.
The rating on hospital infections is based on data that hospitals submit to the state on surgical-site infections and bloodstream infections due to mishandling of catheters.
The score on readmissions is based on billing information analyzed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The ratings on discharge instructions and medication instructions come from surveys by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. Hospitals are required to give those to a sampling of patients and then report to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“We chose those measures because they provide the best collection of data available on hospital safety and provide a good picture of how committed hospitals are to protecting patients,” said Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.
Santa acknowledged that the ratings don’t tell residents everything they need to know about a hospital, “but a low score, especially in multiple measures, is enough to raise a red flag.”
A statement released by North Shore-LIJ, which runs Forest Hills Hospital, concerning its poor showing indicated that the report may not have up-to-date statistics. It scored 62 percent worse than the national average.
“In the past two years, those numbers [infection rates] have shown significant, steady improvement — to the point that the hospital’s performance is now better than the state average,” the statement read.
Forest Hills Hospital officials also cited the increased influx of patients due to the closure of other Queens facilities as a factor in the scores, but the statement said that despite that, “Our most recent data shows that Forest Hills has experienced significant improvement in all quality metrics.”
Santa agrees that having more patients due to closing of other health facilities can make it harder to provide high-quality care, but added: “They’re no excuse for being unsafe.”
He said other hospitals around the country with similar populations do better. “No patient, no matter how poor, should put up with substandard care,” Santa added.
Officials from MediSys Health Network, which runs Jamaica and Flushing hospitals, declined to comment on the report, but sent a response from the Greater New York Hospital Association, which “strongly asserted” that the report does not accurately reflect the level of care and successful patient safety programs at area hospitals.
The GNYHA indicated that the state Department of Health pointed out that the report’s claim that area hospitals have higher rates of hospital-acquired infections than elsewhere is misleading and “likely reflects that New York State has a more comprehensive reporting system than most states.”
Jamaica Hospital ranked 57 percent worse than the national average, and Flushing ranked 52 percent worse, on the Consumer Reports study.
NYHQ scored 43 percent worse than the national average. Stephen Mills, hospital president and chief executive officer, said in a letter to the Queens Chronicle that the facility is “strongly committed” to providing patients with high-quality medical care and to “constantly improving” the hospital experience for patients and their families.
Mills noted that in 2011 NYHQ ranked in the top 10 percent in the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program for low post-operative morbidity in orthopedic procedures; reduced readmissions for pneumonia, congestive heart failure and myocardial infection by 5 percent; and reduced readmissions below the state average of 20.9 percent.
Santa recommends patients and their families ask questions before being admitted to a hospital, while being treated and before being discharged. They range from what type of catheters are being used to what medical supplies will be needed after discharge.
Last September, another hospital report issued by the Niagara Health Quality Coalition put Jamaica Hospital and Queens Hospital Center on the statewide watch list of facilities with proportionally more safety issues.
Jamaica Hospital was worse than the state average for gastrointestinal hemorrhage mortality and its post-operative respiratory failure rate. QHC was cited for its record in acute stroke mortality, gastrointestinal hemorrhage mortality and post-operative hip fractures.