Cape Breton hospital patients have higher mortality ratios than national average

Dr. Warren Wilkes, executive medical director for the Nova Scotia Health Authority's eastern zone, said the ratio is a slight increase over last year and work needs to be done to reduce it.

Older, sicker patients and doctor shortage contribute to higher mortality ratios, says NSHA

Patients at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital have a higher mortality ratio than the national average, says the Canadian Institute of Health Information.

The mortality ratio of patients treated at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital is significantly higher than the national average, says the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The organization found the 2017 mortality ratio for the Cape Breton Regional Hospital is 123 compared to a national ratio of 91.

CIHI, which provides health information to federal, provincial and territorial governments as well as non-governmental health groups, determines mortality ratios by comparing the number of people who die in a particular hospital in a given year with the number of deaths statistically predicted. 

Older, sicker population

Dr. Warren Wilkes, executive medical director for the Nova Scotia Health Authority's eastern zone, said the ratio is a slight increase over last year.

"It really focuses our attentions on quality review going forward, in order to come up with approaches to get this number down," he said. 

Wilkes said the type of patients entering hospitals in Cape Breton could result in a higher-than-average mortality ratio.

"Some of the challenges in Cape Breton is that there is an older and high-acuity [requiring more care] population and they have complex medical problems and as such, it is difficult to adjust for these factors in some of these statistics."

But the CIHI website says it does "adjust its numbers for factors that affect in-hospital mortality rates, such as patient age, sex, diagnosis, length of stay, comorbidities and admission status."

Doctor shortage

Wilkes says another contributing factor is the doctor shortage in Cape Breton. 

"We do have a number of specialists in place but there are some challenges co-ordinating care with the central zone and Halifax for these highly acutely ill patients," he said, listing factors such as "access to high-level specialists, access to highly specialized procedures such as cardiac catheterization."

A quality review committee for the Cape Breton Healthcare Complex, which oversees hospitals in the region, including the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, is looking at areas that can be worked on, including the early detection and treatment of hospital infections, he said.

Wilkes noted the CIHI report also recognizes some improvements at Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

For example, the number of hospital deaths following major surgery has dropped to 1.7 per cent from 2.4 per cent, a number that now matches the provincial rate. 


  • An earlier version of this story said CIHI's mortality ratio applies to the Cape Breton Healthcare Complex. In fact, the ratio applies only to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.
    Jan 18, 2018 2:18 PM AT