Ruttonjee has highest death rate but experts caution on comparisons

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2009, 12:00am

Ruttonjee Hospital has topped the list of public hospitals in death rates - but the medical sector cautioned against judging the hospital as more deadly than others.

Ruttonjee Hospital recorded the highest mortality rate of inpatients for the year 2008-09: 67.4 deaths per 1,000 discharges - or 1,320 deaths for 19,557 discharges in that period.

In other words, it saw one death for every 14.8 people it discharged.

The turnover rate of nurses at Ruttonjee was 6.5 per cent, the second-highest among the 15 public hospitals. For doctors and allied health staff, turnover rates stood at 6.4 per cent and 0.7 per cent.

Caritas Medical Centre and Pok Oi Hospital were next on the list, with death rates of 51.8 and 43 per 1,000 discharges respectively. Caritas also experienced the highest turnover for doctors, at 8.5 per cent.

The figures were revealed in Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok's reply to a Legislative Council inquiry yesterday.

The scope of specialty services in a hospital, its demographic profile and age range of the people it served were factors that could affect the death rate, Dr Chow said.

'It is not appropriate to make comparisons based solely on the mortality rates between individual clusters and hospitals and there is not necessarily any correlation between the mortality rates in individual clusters/hospitals and the turnover rates of health care staff,' he said.

Legislator Joseph Lee Kok-long, representing the health services sector, said Ruttonjee's death rate could be due to a bigger proportion of elderly patients.

'There are a lot of elderly people in Wan Chai, where the hospital is located. They are not mobile and usually do not travel to hospitals in other districts,' Dr Lee said. A high death rate could be a good indicator for resources allocation, he noted.

Medical Association president Tse Hung-hing said it would be fairer to compare hospitals according to death rates under one specialty service, rather than use overall figures, because some hospitals tended to receive more high-risk patients.

Legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan said he was more concerned with North District Hospital and Tuen Mun Hospital, whose death rates were ranked fifth and sixth. 'I am worried that fewer resources are available to New Territories hospitals,' he said, noting that both hospitals served young populations.

A Hospital Authority spokesman refused to comment.

Higher-risk population

Ruttonjee Hospital, in Wan Chai, tends to serve more elderly patients

The average number of discharges it made in 2008-09 for every death was: 14.8