The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released their new quality ratings for hospitals nationwide last month. This announcement wasn’t news for very long. That probably has the hospitals’ leaders breathing a sigh of relief. They probably think nobody noticed. I noticed!

Maine’s two largest hospitals, Eastern Maine Medical Center and Maine Medical Center, each got two stars out of a possible five. Only 2.5 percent of all the hospitals nationwide got a lower rating. This is horrible and unacceptable.

The same old tired excuses were given – that the system is unfair, or that the hospital in question takes care of the sickest and most complex patients.

I believe the system is fair in that they used 64 measures to develop the ratings. Of course, all large medical centers care for the sickest patients – it is their job, and they have the specialists and resources to do it.

But it isn’t fair to patients when they get sub-par care, and when they are harmed by it. It isn’t fair that patients are expected to pay full price for poor care and if they don’t, the hospital’s collection agencies will harass them.

For years Leapfrog has rated these hospitals at an A or B, the highest ratings given. Maine has bragged that we have the best hospitals in the country.

But CMS tells a different story, and so do many of the patients who contact me in my role as a patient safety advocate to talk about their personal tragedies with preventable health care harm. We must demand better from Maine’s two largest hospitals.

Kathy Day, R.N.