Seven of the country’s safest hospitals are on Long Island, according to an annual study published by the Niagara Health Quality Coalition this week. Those hospitals were: John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson; Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream; Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park; North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset; St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown; St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, and Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola.

On the other hand, two area hospitals were placed in a “patient safety watch list,” according to an article in Newsday. These hospitals were Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow and Plainview Hospital, part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. A NUMC spokesman disagreed with the findings, pointing out that the hospital had won numerous national awards. Most local hospitals scored about the state average in the study’s 27 measures of patient safety.

Over the past 10 years, statewide mortality rates have decreased by about 50 percent. However, the rate of hospital infections have risen.

Of course, hospital rankings are not without controversy. As I pointed out in a previous blog post, not all hospitals document errors in the same way, making some appear more safe than they really are, and others more dangerous. Additionally, a study showed that major teaching hospitals to be 10 times as likely to have serious complications as other hospitals. But many groups and hospitals believe these numbers don't illuminate the context that these hospitals often deal with the most complicated cases and sickest patients. They also perform more dangerous or experimental procedures, such as those with inserted electrode wires, which may puncture a lung.

Patients shouldn’t necessarily avoid the hospitals receiving poor marks, said Bruce Boissonnault, chief executive of the nonprofit group that conducted the study. But they should closely examine the results for the hospital in the specialty for which they need to be treated.

Ironically, one of the most challenging times for patients who receive hospital care is in July and August when new doctors-in-training have just completed medical school and are just now beginning their real-life residency training. That is when they are the least experienced. 

Gerry Oginski
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