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"We don’t kill stroke patients!" That was the headline quote in the Redding Record Searchlight from Mayers Memorial Hospital CEO Katharine Ann Campbell, responding to a recent hospital mortality report published by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). The report indicated that Mayers hospital, located in rural Fall River Mills, had 7 times the mortality rate for stroke patients than the state average. The problem, according to CEO Campbell, is that the subject patients are all still alive.

OSHPD Director Joseph Parker responded to the claimed inaccuracy by stating that each of the hospitals surveyed must "sign off" to the accuracy of the findings before they are entered into the database. CEO Campbell could not explain how the inaccuracy happened, but the Los Angeles Times reported a simiilar statistical error involving Torrance Memorial Medical Center a week ago.

While the more information we have about hospital performance, the more informed choices we can make, a report such as the one recently issued by OSHPD should be 100% accurate. Since that report issued, numerous articles, editorials and posts have been published asserting that the report can be used to guide "consumer choices" regarding hospitals. I don’t agree that this report was designed for such guidance, particuarly in light of the limited medical conditions that were selected for analysis. If these claimed inaccuracies are true, however, then the OSHPD should publicize its inaccuracies and identify the source of its errors. Otherwise, the reliability of any future reports, for any purpose, will be entirely suspect.

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