Patients in Halifax hospitals have been dying at one of the highest rates in the country, and nurses are asking what it will take for Capital Health and the McNeil government to act.
The Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio (HSMR) is an indicator tracked by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). It compares the actual number of deaths in hospital with the number of deaths that would normally be expected given the age, sex, and profile of the patients in that hospital.
In 2013, Nova Scotia had the second-highest – that is, the second-worst – Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio in Canada, and the QEII Health Sciences Centre helped drive that. The rate was on its way down in Halifax hospitals, but in 2012-13 began to track up again. This means that even though it’s a tertiary care centre, deaths at Capital Health are above what should be expected for the patient population.
CIHI calls the Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio “an important measure to improve patient safety and quality of care in Canadian hospitals” and a “motivator for change.”
Nurses have proposed nurse to patient ratios as a solution. A recent study in The Lancet medical journal, using data collected from 300 hospitals in nine European countries, shows that every extra patient added to a nurse’s workload increases the risk of death within a month of surgery by seven per cent.
“There’s strong evidence that shows the hospital mortality rate is linked directly to nurse staffing. But Capital Health’s solution to rising death rates is to develop a ‘process’ and conduct ‘further assessment,’” says NSGEU President Joan Jessome.
Capital Health brought in several new practices this past year, including a policy that says units may not replace nurses who are off sick, which means floors are routinely left short-staffed.
“If Capital Health won’t take responsibility for reducing deaths in hospital, and Stephen McNeil won’t either, then nurses will. Data like this shows what nurses already know: we need ratios to ensure safe patient care. Nurses are prepared to fight for better care for all Nova Scotians.”
For more information on the CIHI’s Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio, visit http://www.ourhealthsystem.ca/#!/indicators/005/hospital-deaths-hsmrThe Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents over 30,000 women and men who provide quality public services Nova Scotians count on every day. For more information or to arrange an interview with NSGEU President, Joan Jessome, please contact: Holly Fraughton, NSGEU Communications Officer 424.4063 (office) 471.1781 (cell) firstname.lastname@example.org