PORTLAND – Maine Medical Center in Portland ranked last among four Maine hospitals that were studied for safety by Consumer Reports and was below the national average.

In its August issue, Consumer Reports looked at six categories in its safety ratings: infections, re-admissions, communication about medication and discharge, overuse of scans that pose risks because of radiation, complications, and mortality.

It reviewed only 18 percent of hospitals across 44 states because data on patient safety was not available or reported fully across the country, the magazine said.

Fifty-one percent of the hospitals rated by Consumer Reports received a score below 50 points on a scale of 1 to 100. The average score and the mean rating of the hospitals ranked both were 49 points, according to Consumer Reports.

Only four of Maine’s 36 hospitals were ranked because Consumer Reports said it did not have enough data on all of them.

Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston scored the highest, at 65 points, MaineGeneral Medical Center-Waterville Campus got 59 points, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor got 57 points and Maine Medical Center got 46.

Maine Medical Center’s ranking had a footnote saying “complications are worse than average.”

No Maine hospital was listed among the magazine’s Top 10 Best or Worst 10 hospitals nationally.

The top-rated hospital in the country, the Billings Clinic in Montana, scored 72 points out of 100. The worst, Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago, got 16 points.

“We’re very concerned about the average of 49 and the best hospital scoring just 72,” said John Santa, director of Consumer Reports’ health ratings center. “The top hospitals get it — they know they have more work to do. … We look forward to the day when the top hospitals score in the 90s and the average is 72.”

Maine Medical Center said the U.S. lacks a national standard for ranking hospitals for patient safety. Other ranking services use more comprehensive criteria for evaluating hospitals’ quality, it said, citing www.leapfroggroup.org; www.getbettermaine.org and www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov as websites that compare hospitals on a broader range of issues.

Consumer Reports said it used Leapfrog as one source in its study.

“Maine Medical is a safe hospital, recognized nationally and locally for quality,” said Doug Salvador, vice president of quality and patient safety for the Portland hospital.

“Some hospitals can look really poor or really great depending on the ratings used,” Salvador said. “We have things we have to work on — we know that. We need to work on communication.”

Maine Medical Center acknowledged that it may have room for improvement in areas such as infections — it scored below average in the Consumer Reports study.

It also ranked below average in the area of communicating with patients. It got an average rating for re-admissions and got the highest available rating for the careful use of scanning.

Salvador said Maine Medical Center is proud of the work it has done to reduce the re-admission of patients. He said Consumer Reports may be using outdated information.

Although no ranking may use perfect methodology, just comparing hospitals gives consumers more information than they had just 20 years ago and gives hospitals incentive to improve, said Lisa Simm, administrative director of quality care management for MaineGeneral Medical Center.

“Public reporting has really given hospitals an important shot in the arm. It inspires people to do better,” Simm said. “It’s hard to be excellent in every single thing, but we never had benchmarking opportunities 20 years ago. We’re so much further along in how we can compare ourselves to others and improve.”

Eastern Maine Medical Center “is proud of the work we have done to establish a culture of safety for our patients and will continue to work on a daily basis to improve our performance,” said James Raczek, the hospital’s senior vice president and chief medical officer.

Central Maine Medical Center could not be reached for comment. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Hospital Association also could not be reached for comment.

Consumer Reports has a strong reputation with the public and it could be influential for people who have a choice of hospitals.

“Our brand is well respected and powerful. We’ve had luck in other industries discussing safety and spurring improvements,” Santa said. “We’re excited to be one of several folks to be looking at this area.”

Most people, however, go with word of mouth on choosing a hospital, Salvador said. “The majority of people still ask their doctor or someone they know about where they should go.”

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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