Hamilton's hospitals rank about average or slightly below average in a sweeping, nation-wide  Rate My Hospital investigation done by the CBC.

St. Joseph's Healthcare rated the best of local hospitals, earning and overall B grade, which means it rates about the same as other hospitals of its size in Canada. Its highest grade in individual categories was an A for the low number of deaths after major surgery (5.34 people per 1,000). It has a C grade for the number of issues related to nursing care, such as urinary tract infections, bed sores, pneumonia and broken bones in medical patients and surgical patients. 

Hamilton General Hospital got an overall C grade, which mean it ranks worse than hospitals its size on five risk-adjusted indicators. It ranged from a B grade for deaths after surgery to D for post-surgery problems such as urinary tract infections, bed sores, pneumonia and broken bones. For every 1,000 patients, 63.81 surgical patients develop one of those "nursing-sensitive adverse events."

Juravinski Hospital also got an overall C grade, including a D for adverse events in surgical patients. For every 1,000 patients, 63.81 patients develop one of those ailments.

Watch the fifth estate's full Rate My Hospital report on Friday at 9 p.m. (9:30 in Newfoundland).

The investigation, done by the fifth estateuses data collected from hospitals by the Canadian Institute for Health information. A five-member expert panel advised CBC on the selection and use of the data. It also includes the opportunity for readers to rate their hospitals.

"I think we're very interested in any tool that can offer advice and information about our hospital system," Dr. David Higgins, president of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, said of the CBC investigation.

He did, though, question the methodology of the study. "I do think the information on which it was based, some of it was quite old."

He said the report cites two-year-old numbers, which don't reflect gains St. Joseph's has made in terms of outcomes for post-surgical and kidney patients.

"We've got a multi-pronged approach to address this issue and we believe that in the next year or two, we expect to see major improvements in that data."

Kirsten Krull is vice-president of professional practice and chief nursing executive at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), which runs Hamilton General and Juravinski hospitals. In regards to the statistics on adverse events after surgery, Krull said it's not as simple as looking at a number.

HHS's numbers in terms of pressure ulcers and broken bones are "extremely low," and hospital staff work hard to keep them that way, Krull said.

The higher numbers are around pneumonia and urinary tract infections, which seem higher in part because HHS is thorough in collecting surveillance data, she said.

As for the grade, "we're always looking at what we can improve," she said. But with post-surgery illnesses, "as you dig in, it's not always that straightforward."