MILLS MEMORIAL Hospital is a victim of murky statistics amid suggestions that every heart attack patient admitted there then dies, says a leading northwest physician.
The claim of a 100 per cent mortality rate among heart attack patients is contained in a Fraser Institute ranking of the 95 acute care hospitals in B.C. using data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
The mortality claim is made for the 2008-2009 period and the Fraser Institute’s report is based on 41 indicators gathered from three million patient records from 2001 to 2009.
Dr. Geoff Appleton, the Northern Health Authority’s medical director for the region who also has a long-standing practice here, says the claim is impossible.
“Frankly, it’s insulting. It’s insulting to the nursing staff and to the medical staff,” said Appleton. “It’s not true and everyone knows it’s not true. But to have this out there like this in a very public way is wrong.”
If anything, the 100 per cent death rate claim comes from an interpretation of statistics that is not clearly explained or understood, Appleton continued.
“One of the problems is that even a few bad cases in a small hospital can affect the results,” said Appleton.
“And in this circumstance, the 100 per cent mortality figure is in a column headed with ‘risk adjusted rate’ but there’s no explanation of what that means,” he said. “I suppose there is some fine print someplace but it’s not readily apparent.”
Appleton added that previous attempts by the Northern Health Authority to have the Fraser Institute explain how it analyzed statistics in earlier reports failed. “The problem is that we don’t know what the methodology is. The Fraser Institute needs to be more transparent,” he added.
A clearer analysis of heart attack deaths among patients at Mills from 2001-2009 suggests the death rate is approximately 9 per cent, Appleton said.
One local heart attack patient, a person who has actually been admitted twice with heart attacks, is another local physician, Dr. Johann Meyburg.
“No one told me I had died, that I actually had the audacity to die twice,” Meyburg wrote in a letter to The Vancouver Province, which published the Fraser Institute’s findings.
Meyburg added that as an on-call physician in the emergency room at Mills he was involved in the treatment of multiple victims of heart attacks over the period in which every such patient should have died according to the Fraser Institute study. “No one advised me that they were dead and should be sent elsewhere. I believe that they are still doing well ….”