St. Mary Medical Center on state's safest hospital list

Providence St. Mary Medical Center was the only hospital east of the Cascades to make the grade.

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Seattle's Virginia Mason Medical Center is the safest hospital in Washington, according to a recent study done by Niagara Health Quality Coalition of New York for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.

And, data showed, Providence St. Mary Medical Center made the grade, as well. "We were the only hospital east of the Cascades to make the honor roll," noted Kathleen Obenland, hospital spokeswoman.

Those conclusions -- based on a computer analysis of patient treatment records at all hospitals in the state -- fit with the general perception, health-care experts said.

Other hospitals on the honor roll were Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Kirkland, Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue and Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver.

The study lent credence to the data analysis, since Virginia Mason gets regular kudos for safety from national organizations like The Leapfrog Group and even from its competitors.

"We would like to be like Virginia Mason as one of the premiere quality hospitals," said Sharon Jenkins, administrator for quality management for Tacoma General Hospital, which ranked low in the same study.

When it came to naming the lower ranked hospitals, some eyebrows were elevated. Though nearly every hospital in Washington regularly uses the same data to judge their own performances internally, some hospital officials didn't approve of its use to compare hospitals.

"This data is a good starting point for hospitals to look for quality improvement (internally)," said Shelly Pricco, director of patient services at Enumclaw Regional Hospital, which rated lower. "But there's a lot more that goes on behind the scenes before you can say the hospital has a problem."

Eight hospitals on the lower "watch list", besides Tacoma General and Enumclaw Regional, were Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington, Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Highline Medical Center in Burien, University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, and Valley Hospital and Medical Center in Spokane Valley.

The study used a program developed by the federal government to analyze 2007 hospital billing data. The program is designed to determine the relative safety records of each hospital based on the outcomes of certain treatments.

The data is collected by the state Department of Health on all patients in all hospitals.

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