Samaritan Health’s Avalanche of Woe

Samaritan Health Services logoSamaritan Health Services, who made not-so-pleasant recent headlines during now-resolved negotiations with the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), just can’t seem to clear the air. Recent reports have SamHealth hospitals receiving two of only four “D” ratings in the entire state of Oregon—both of which, Corvallis and Albany centers, are right in our backyard.

This rating system, known as the Hospital Safety Score, is a study that culls data from the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Grades are given based on where they mathematically sit in comparison to the rest of surveyed hospitals. A “D” means that these two Samaritan facilities landed within the lowest 7% of scoring hospitals. These scores were determined in blocks of research from various studies conducted from around July 2010 until the tail end of 2012.

Rated on several handfuls of key areas, some stand out amongst the Corvallis Samaritan Regional Medical Center results. The average performing hospital had a score of 0.73 when it came to urinary tract infections that could be linked to catheter maintenance, while SamHealth scored a 2.907. Worse yet, when it came to deaths amongst surgical inpatients that had treatable complications, SamHealth had a resounding 153.34 per 1,000 patients, while the average was only 113.56. Wounds splitting open after surgery? At 1.70 per 1,000 that may not seem like a lot, but it’s still double the average number of 0.96.

Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis

samhealthsidestoryContinuing on into the administrative section, SamHealth hit rock bottom on implementing safety features such as error-checking systems when prescriptions are entered, earning the worst score of all hospitals, a 5 out of 100, where the average hospital was over 46. Getting the right drugs the first time is of the utmost importance in keeping patients safe and healthy. While this portion of the study was done in 2012, SamHealth has been using an improved system to help correct these errors since March of this year.

The second category that really stood out was another belly flop onto concrete, once again scoring a 5 out of 100 on keeping their intensive care unit properly staffed. To quote Hospital Safety Score, “Quality of care in ICUs is strongly influenced by the staff organization and the presence of intensivists… [who] are familiar with the complications that can occur in the ICU and are better equipped to minimize errors. Mortality rates are significantly lower in hospitals with closed ICUs managed exclusively by board certified intensivists.” In all fairness though, most other hospital’s didn’t do great in this category either, with the average being just 28.19.

Yes, There’s More

Another recent blow to our only local hospital, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) just announced that SamHealth will be fined $5,000—possibly reduced to $1,000 as long as they comply with Oregon law over the next five years. The crime? One thousand two hundred and twenty-two patient records somehow found themselves into an unlocked recycling container instead of the shredder. Twenty of these documents contained unredacted patient names and Social Security numbers.

With the frequency of identity theft schemes, as well as the efficacy of those perpetrating them on the rise, this is a major breach of patient confidentiality and could have easily caused those involved immeasurable damage. To make matters worse, it wasn’t an inspector or employee that found these documents this past July—it was a patient.

Perhaps ironically, all of this comes just half a month after SamHealth was praised by the Portland Business Journal for being “Oregon’s Healthiest Employer” in the 1,500+ category, which itself came out only a stone’s throw after troublesome scheduling practices were brought to light as a result of SamHealth’s last contract negotiation process with the ONA. These practices included a mixture of grueling 12-hour block shifts, which have been proven to be dangerous for nurses as well as patients, and the unpopular suggestion of self-scheduling implementation.

While even the full $5,000 fee doesn’t seem much for a non-profit of its size, those that choose SamHealth hospitals (or have it chosen for them) have to hope that the symbolism behind it helps propel things forward towards a safer environment.

To view the DCBS official release, visit

To view Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center’s Hospital Safety Score, visit

by Johnny Beaver