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Ohio hospital comparison Web site lacks strong data on nursing care

National Nurses United says Ohio Hospital Compare is missing important information about patient safety. The union wants people to know how many patients nurses are caring for at one time.

Michelle Mahon is the owner of Critical Insight, a medical-legal consulting firm, and is a member of the National Nurses Organizing Committee in Ohio.

While Ohio’s registered nurses will welcome “Ohio Hospital Compare” – the new Department of Health web site — as a step in the right direction in a state where the hospital industry keeps its operations, outcomes, and adverse events a secret,  the nurses’ union I belong to has strong criticisms of the Web site.

National Nurses United, the largest-ever union for RNs in this country, has pointed to the fact that Ohio Hospital Compare provides no information to consumers about what we view as the most critical safety issue in hospitals – the number of patients a nurse cares for at one time.  Particularly when Dr. Alvin Jackson, the Director of the Ohio Department of Health has admitted to our union that he knows that some Ohio hospitals are making nurses care for up to 15 patients at a time! This is a number that is extremely unsafe in any care environment.

Although some “nursing sensitive” indicators are included on Ohio Hospital Compare, such as “communication with nurses”, “responsiveness of staff”, “communication regarding medications” and “bedsores” –  staffing levels of direct care staff, the number of “failure to rescue” events, and other adverse events are not disclosed on the website.

The “Patient Safety” section of the Web site is terribly inadequate in tracking the most important measures of whether a patient will survive a hospitalization.  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. Â  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.

Our organization calls for daily reporting of actual 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, as well as mandatory reporting in Ohio of hospital adverse events.

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