Back to Top Fewer deaths, more lives saved: The Ottawa Hospital is one of nation’s top “rescue” centres - The Ottawa Hospital


Fewer deaths, more lives saved: The Ottawa Hospital is one of nation’s top “rescue” centres

December 2, 2014 — The Ottawa Hospital is one of the best in the country for rescuing patients from life-threatening injuries or illnesses, according to a new scorecard that tracks the performance of Canadian hospitals.

The hospital’s standardized mortality ratio, which measures how frequently patients die unexpectedly, has been declining steadily in recent years and is now tied among large teaching hospitals for first place, alongside Vancouver General Hospital.

The finding is published in, a searchable website that includes detailed information about the quality and performance of Canadian hospitals. The website is maintained by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The last time the hospital’s standardized mortality ratio was reported in 2012, it stood at 87.5 percent. The latest result is 78 percent, which is significantly better than the Canadian average (85 per cent) and Ontario average (83 per cent).

That means that, compared to two years ago, the hospital is rescuing approximately 400 more patients annually from strokes, heart attacks, traumatic injuries and other critical conditions from which they would otherwise be expected to die.

“Our hospital has made big strides over the past few years in ensuring rapid access to life-saving therapies,” said Dr. Alan Forster, Chief Quality and Performance Officer. “For example, patients who need emergency surgery are getting it faster than they ever did before. More importantly, we use every death at our hospital as an opportunity to evaluate and refine our practices.”

Under a unique program led by Forster, physicians and nurses from across the hospital spent the past year analyzing the factors surrounding 500 deaths. Those in-hospital deaths that were considered to be “unanticipated” due to a failure to rescue patients from their illnesses or injuries were singled out for closer study.

An early finding from Forster’s review is that the bloodstream infection known as septic shock is a leading cause of unanticipated deaths at the hospital. Another is the lack of advance planning around end-of-life care, resulting in medical interventions that can have unintended consequences, especially for patients with age-related frailty or diseases in their advanced stages.

While many hospitals perform similar mortality reviews as a quality-assurance check, they are often confined within individual programs. As a result, they don’t provide a hospital-wide view of how and why patients die unexpectedly – and what could be done to reduce their risk.

“By performing a review across all programs at the hospital, clinicians can learn from each other,” said Forster. “More importantly, we can see common problems occurring across the institution. This really helps to get people working on the same issue as a team.”

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Hazel Harding
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