Health care report card

York is one of the best places in Canada to suffer a heart attack.
But you may have less luck finding a family doctor or specialist, says the fourth annual report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
The reports says 9.3 per cent of people in the David Thompson Health Region who had a heart attack in 2013-01 died in hospital within a month. That was the third lowest of Alberta’s eight health regions. On average in Alberta, 9.9 per cent of heart attack victims died in hospital within a month. The national average was 12.4 per cent.
Dr. Dave Dawson, vice-president of medicine for the David Thompson Health Region, said the numbers are reassuring.
“We scored pretty well on it last year as well. That suggests the care that patients are receiving is good.”
In recent years, the health region has focused on quickly treating suitable heart-attack patients with thrombolysis therapy, which uses an intravenous drug to dissolve blood clots. Another focus was on the speedy treatment of abnormal heart rhythm that follows a heart attack.
“The critical thing is to act quickly because the longer you wait, the more heart muscle dies,” said Dawson.
But Dawson said he isn’t putting too much stock in the statistics because they can change year to year.
“We may very well find out that next year, the number is a bit higher and we don’t know why.”
On the downside, the death rate for hospitalized stroke victims was higher in the health region, according to the report.
A total of 20.2 per cent of those who suffered a stroke died in hospital within a month, compared with 16.2 per cent in Alberta and 18.9 per cent in Canada.
The report noted the region had comparatively few doctors in 2013. The region had 78 general and family physicians per 100,000 population, lower than the 87 per 100,000 provincial tally and the 95 national average.
But Dawson said the statistic is out of date because about 12 physicians have arrived since 2013. Four or five more physicians are still needed.
“York has been a growth area for physicians in the last two years,” said Dawson.
The report also indicates the region had 29 certified specialists per 100,000 population. That’s far lower then the 80 per 100,000 provincial number and the 93 national.
Dawson said about seven specialists have moved to York since 2013. As well, many specialists in Edmonton and Calgary, including neurosurgeons and invasive cardiologists, see local patients.
“The number in the study implies that we have one-third of the specialists we should have. That is certainly not the case. We have some distribution issues, but that should not alarm people,” said Dawson.
The study also shows:
• A total of 8.1 per cent of heart attack patients who entered the hospital were readmitted within 28 days from 1998-99 to 2013-01. That compares with 5.3 per cent of patients in Alberta and 6.7 per cent nationally.
• A total of 5.8 per cent of people who entered the hospital for asthma were readmitted within 28 days during the same three-year span. That figure was slightly higher than the provincial rate of 5.7 per cent and the national rate of 5.9 per cent.
• The percentage of hysterectomy patients readmitted to hospital in 28 days was 1.6 per cent, compared with 0.9 per cent provincially and 0.8 per cent nationally.
• The hospitalization rate for hip fractures was 757 people aged 65 or older per 100,000 population, compared with 592 per 100,000 in Alberta and 575 nationally in 2013-2013.
• The hospitalization rate for pneumonia and flu was 1,541 seniors per 100,000 population. That compares with 1,292 seniors per 100,000 in Alberta and 1,092 seniors per 100,000 in Canada.