Ohio Nurses Union Debunks New State Health Department Hospital Website
For Immediate Release
January 5, 2010
Limited Information Limits Effectiveness of Hospital Comparisons
The Ohio affiliate of National Nurses United, the "super-union" for registered nurses, today welcomes Ohio Hospital Compare, the new website of the Ohio Department of Health, aimed at helping consumers choose a hospital by comparing quality measures—but the union cautions patients that the quality of the information is limited, thereby limiting the site's impact.
“In a state where the hospital industry keeps its practices largely a secret, and its patients unaware, this new website is a step forward toward the kind of hospital accountability necessary to protect patients’ lives,” comments Kimberly Helmick, RN, a local activist with NNOC-Ohio, the state chapter of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association, one of three major nurse unions that merged in December, 2009 into National Nurses United, the largest-ever union for RNs in this country, with over 150,000 members across all 50 states.
“However, Ohio Hospital Compare only paints part of the picture for patients. There are significant gaps that remain, and those gaps obscure the real patient-care conditions in the hospitals,” Helmick continued.
Nurses point to the following gaps in information offered by the Web site:
- Patients need to know about staffing levels for direct patient care personnel, particularly registered nurses, but cannot find this information on Ohio Hospital Compare. Although some “nursing sensitive” indicators are included on the website, such as “communication with nurses,” “responsiveness of staff,” “communication regarding medications,” and “bedsores,” -- the most important information is not available -- namely the number of patients a nurse is caring for at one time, the number of “failure to rescue” events, and other adverse events taking place.
- The “Patient Safety” section of the website is woefully inadequate in tracking the most important measures of whether a patient will survive a hospitalization, such as the facility’s ratio of nurses to patients. Research shows that increasing the number of full time RNs on staff per day by one, resulted in 9% fewer hospital-related deaths in ICU’s, 16% fewer in surgical patients and 6% fewer in medical patients, according to Healthcare Risk Management, February 2008. For each additional patient assigned to an RN, the risk of death increases by 7%, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, May, 2007.
- “Sentinel events” taking place in hospitals, which point to systemic failures in hospital systems, are not reported on Ohio Hospital Compare. (Ohio does not require these events to be reported, unlike many other states.)
The Director of the Ohio Department of Health has acknowledged that some Ohio hospitals are making RNs care for up to fifteen patients at a time, on a medical/surgical unit. “These figures are shocking and completely outside of professional safety norms. In 2008, the Ohio Hospital Association and industry allies passed the so-called ‘Common Sense Staffing Law’ which is clearly not working to resolve unsafe care conditions like this one,” added Deborah Burger, RN, co-President of National Nurses United.
NNOC-Ohio calls for:
- Public reporting on a daily basis of actual direct care personnel staffing levels, including nurse-to-patient ratios, on a website usable by the public and health care workers, so that patients and their families may be able to know how many patients nurses are caring for at one time.
- Mandatory reporting of hospital adverse events to the State of Ohio.