Just one hospital gets HSE 'green light'
ONLY one of the country's acute hospitals reached the highest "green light" standard in a new Health Service Executive survey designed to rate efficiency.
The HSE's HealthStat programme measures hospital performance on a monthly basis, but the December 2009 analysis showed that Waterford Regional Hospital was the only acute facility to get top marks.
This result represents a "very good performance" in each of the three areas measured -- access to services, patient-focus and best use of human and financial resources.
It was a different story, however, for patients in the west of the country, as both University College Hospital and Merlin Park Hospital in Galway were given the "red light", deeming them unsatisfactory and requiring urgent attention.
The country's remaining 26 acute hospitals were on the "amber light" list, meaning they put in an average performance with room for improvement.
According to the HSE, the HealthStat programme is designed "to support continuous improvement" and allows for "greater openness and transparency" in relation to health services.
Among the items it measures are the average length of time patients stay in hospital; GP access to diagnostics; outpatient department wait times; and whether patients and their families are being informed of their treatment and included in discharge planning.
The programme also records how well each hospital is using its resources measured, for example, by absenteeism levels and the number of patients seen in outpatient clinics.
However, it is not designed to measure patient outcomes or quality of care -- these are studied by the Health Information and Quality Authority as well as hospital clinical directors and the HSE's new Clinical Care and Quality directorate.
Waterford Regional Hospital (WRH) general manager Patricia Sullivan said of her hospital's performance: "It continues to be a work in progress, to free up capacity to treat more patients, but these results are very encouraging."
HSE South regional manager Pat Healy said that the result came as a result of "tremendous focus and teamwork" at WRH. "Efforts to improve access for patients to our hospital services and making the best use of people and monetary resources will continue to be the focus, not only at Waterford Regional Hospital, but in all the acute hospitals across HSE South," he said.
Hospital data is reviewed on a monthly basis by a HealthStat forum co-ordinated by Maureen Lynott, adviser to HSE Chief Executive Brendan Drumm.
The monthly meetings focus on performance results for individual hospitals, share the reasons behind the identified successes and support action plans for improvement.
The HSE says that before the HealthStat programme came about many hospitals measured aspects of their activity in detail but the information was not compiled and analysed in an integrated way.