Alberta gets only average results despite highest hospital spending, new …

EDMONTON – Alberta is by far the biggest spender in the country on hospital care, yet the provincial health system is producing only middling results, a new health data website shows.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information’s new online tool, Your Health System, launched Thursday by providing colourful charts and graphs on 37 indicators related to access, quality of care, patient safety and emerging health trends.

Users can compare the performance of various provinces, health regions and individual hospitals on factors ranging from in-hospital sepsis (a complication arising from infection) and smoking rates to influenza immunizations and the number of avoidable deaths from treatable causes.

“This website and its data should help health sector leaders make decisions about the delivery of health services based on comparisons with leading practices,� David O’Toole, CIHI’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Our experiences and those in other jurisdictions show that public reporting like this makes our health system function more effectively.�

The website shows Alberta’s health system is performing at around the national average in almost all categories, except for one.

The cost of a standard hospital stay in Alberta in 2012-13 was $7,338, the highest rate in the country and well above the national average of $5,567. The Edmonton zone of Alberta Health Services was the worst in the province at $7,804, though this could be partially explained by the fact the capital tends to handle more of the serious cases, such as transplant patients.

Still, the website shows Alberta’s costs climbed 13 per cent between 2010 and 2013, whereas the national rate of increase was just 4.3 per cent.

The biggest rise over that time was recorded by AHS’s Central zone at almost 30 per cent. Only the Calgary zone, with a 3.2-per-cent increase, had a jump lower than the national average.

Among individual facilities, the cost of a standard hospital stay in 2012-13 was highest at Crowsnest Pass Health Centre ($10,839), Hanna Health Centre ($10,129) and Seton Healthcare Centre in Jasper ($10,052), while the lowest costs were recorded by hospitals in Brooks ($5,264), Sacred Heart in McLennan ($5,099) and Beaverlodge ($4,550).

Among the big city hospitals, the highest costs were recorded at the Alberta Children’s Hospital ($9,779) and University Hospital ($8,771), while the lowest was at Rockyview in Calgary ($6,462).

Other highlights of the new website include:

Alberta spends 3.6 per cent of its health budget on administration, lower than the national average of 4.5 per cent;

About 80 per cent of Albertans have a regular doctor, lower than the national average of 84.5 per cent;

About 9.3 per cent of Alberta’s mental health patients have at least three repeat hospital stays a year, better than the national average of 11.1 per cent;

Alberta’s rate of patients contracting sepsis in hospital (4.2 per 1,000 discharges), is similar to the national rate of 4.4;

Alberta has marginally better rates for hospital deaths and performing low-risk caesarean sections, and marginally worse rates of surgical patients being readmitted to hospital;

The Alberta hospitals that had the worst patient readmission rates in 2012-13 were in Elk Point, Wabasca/Desmarias and Vulcan, while the best rates were recorded by Banff, High River and Three Hills.

The middling results for Alberta come even though the province tends to have a younger and more active population than other parts of the country. The province does have slightly higher rates of smoking, drinking and obesity than average.

kgerein@edmontonjournal.com

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