The Kaiser hospitals in Sacramento, South Sacramento, Panorama City, Riverside and Roseville all had higher than average mortality rates between 2002 and 2004, said the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.
Statewide, 12.29% of pneumonia patients -- or about one in eight -- died within 30 days of admission. The 28 hospitals that fared worst had an average mortality rate of 17.2%. By contrast, the 25 hospitals that ranked best had an average mortality rate of 8.1%.
"The report is meant to act as a report card for patients," said Mary Tran, a patient data analysis manager who helped write the study for the state agency. "People can use this to shop around for the best healthcare."
The report measured the quality of care for patients with community-acquired pneumonia in California-licensed hospitals from January 2002 through November 2004. The lag in reporting is due to the time required to collect data, verify it and adjust it for various patient characteristics, such as the severity of the illness.
Pneumonia was selected for the report card because -- like heart attack -- it is common and has a relatively high risk of death. Timely diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve a patient's chances of surviving, Tran said.
"It's a death that can be prevented with better care," Tran said. "Hospitals that seem to do better appear more active in the treatment of their patients."
Tuesday's report marks the second time the state has released findings on community-acquired pneumonia -- the type of pneumonia contracted at home or at work -- in the last three years. Pneumonia, the sixth-leading cause of death overall, is also the primary cause of deaths from infectious disease, the state agency said.
More than 203,000 adult patients with pneumonia were admitted to 390 California hospitals from 2002 through 2004. Of those, 25,027 died.
Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park has rated better than the state average for pneumonia patients in the last two state studies. Its mortality rate in the latest study was 7.45%.
Eric Jiang, interim chief operating officer, said the center's success came from treating patients immediately by administering vaccines, prescribing antibiotics and offering counseling to help smokers quit.
"Also something that's no small matter is that we have staff that can communicate with patients in their native language so they understand what they need treated," Jiang said. Garfield's patients are predominantly Chinese or Latino. "English speakers are in the minority," Jiang said.
Kaiser Permanente officials disagreed with the study's methodology, saying that it improperly included patients who contracted pneumonia while already hospitalized. Such patients have a higher risk of death.
"They were all pooled together, which made the mortality rates look worse than they really were," said John Brookey, assistant medical director for Southern California Kaiser Permanente.
Kaiser Permanente, the state's largest HMO, serves 3.2 million people a year in Southern California and has 30 hospitals throughout California.
Kaiser facilities have previously received poor marks in the report.
When the study was last released, in 2004, six of the hospitals on the list were operated by Kaiser, three of them in Los Angeles County and two in the Inland Empire. Of those six, only Kaiser's hospitals in Riverside and South Sacramento made the list again this year.
One Kaiser facility made the best-25 list: the Kaiser Foundation Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo.
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Pneumonia death rates
The vast majority of hospitals in California fared as expected for treating patients with pneumonia between 2002 and 2004. Below are Southern California hospitals that had significantly higher or lower death rates than expected.
Hospitals rated better than average (by county)
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
East Los Angeles Doctor's Hospital
Garfield Medical Center
St. Vincent Medical Center
Columbia San Clemente Hospital Medical Center
Irvine Regional Hospital and Medical Center
UC Irvine Medical Center
Los Robles Regional Medical Center
Hospitals rated worse than average (by county)
Coast Plaza Doctor's Hospital
Kaiser Foundation Hospital-Panorama City
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
Pacifica Hospital of the Valley
Torrance Memorial Medical Center
Coastal Communities Hospital
Placentia-Linda Community Hospital
West Anaheim Medical Center
Desert Regional Medical Center
Kaiser Foundation Hospital-Riverside
Parkview Community Hospital
San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital
Redlands Community Hospital
Source: California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development