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Consumer Reports study on infections rates several WNY hospitals below-average

Medina Memorial Hospital ranked poorly in a new national rating of hospital-acquired infections by Consumer Reports.

Its overall score, based on performance in five infection measures, for the period examined by the magazine was more than 100 percent worse than the national base line, and was the lowest of 13 area medical entities reviewed.

Consumer Reports gave hospitals one of five overall ratings as compared to a national base line: zero infections, at least 50 percent better, between the national base line and 50 percent better, up to and including 100 percent worse than the base line, and more than 100 percent worse.

Of the other area hospitals examined, five received the second-worst overall ranking: Olean General, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical, Mercy, Kenmore Mercy in the Town of Tonawanda, and Kaleida Health, which includes four hospitals. Six ranked in the middle: Brooks Memorial in Dunkirk, Eastern Niagara in Lockport, Erie County Medical Center, Mount St. Mary’s in Lewiston, Sisters in Buffalo, and United Memorial in Batavia. One, Bertrand Chaffee in Springville, was not rated.

When looking at the five individual measures that made up the overall score, Sisters got a second-highest rating for avoiding infections from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. Other hospitals scored at the highest level on individual measures but the number of patients involved was too small to be statistically better than national rates, according to the magazine.

Consumer Reports rated hospitals in avoiding five problems based on information facilities reported to the federal government between October 2013 and September 2014: MRSA and Clostridium difficile, known as C. difficile, as well as infections associated with central lines, urinary tract catheters and surgical sites.

A “central line” refers to the thin tubes known as catheters that are placed into a patient’s vein to draw blood, give fluids or medications. A bloodstream infection can occur when bacteria travel down a central line and enter the blood.

The federal government provides similar infection results at its website. Consumer Reports used the information to devise an overall score for the hospitals.

At Kaleida, Dr. David P. Hughes, chief medical officer, said the ranking no longer reflects conditions at the hospital system. “The culture at Kaleida Health is 180 degrees different from the time this data were collected,” he said. “We consider it lagging data, and it feels like a ball and chain, considering we have made significant improvements.”

Kaleida officials said catheter-associated urinary tract infections had decreased by 44 percent so far in 2015, compared with 2014. They also said Kaleida has seen improvements in colon surgical site infections, C. difficile and central-line infections.

Medina Memorial did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Olean General defended its record on infections.

“Quality and safety issues, including infection reduction, are constantly and continually addressed in real time, through aggressive programs designed to reduce errors, infections and readmissions,” Dennis J. McCarthy, spokesman for Upper Allegheny Health System, said in an email.

Catholic Health voiced concern over the methodology of the ratings, saying that a small number of infections can have a large impact on the rates.

“Catholic Health hospitals are among the group with a relatively small number of infections, which have been lumped with other facilities that are true statistical outliers having a greater rate of infections,” Dr. Kevin T. Shiley, physician adviser for infection prevention and control, said in an email.

He said the hospital system has made major improvements in certain infections, such as for MRSA and C. difficile, at Mercy and Kenmore Mercy.

The magazine did not rate every hospital in the region. In addition, it should be noted that even though Kaleida operates four hospitals, it was graded as one entity.

Hospital-acquired infections have come under intense scrutiny. In 2014, Medicare penalized more than 700 hospitals in the first year of a program aimed at improving patient safety. A federal progress report released earlier this year indicated that hospitals have made improvements in preventing some infections, but needed to do better in other areas. About 1 in 25 U.S. patients has at least one infection contracted during a hospital stay, according to the report.

The Consumer Reports ranking is one of a number of score cards examining hospital quality. Hospital officials cautioned that the rankings use different methods and different time periods, and don’t portray a complete picture of their performance.

News Business Reporter Stephen T. Watson contributed to this report. email: