12/02/2014 09:44 EST | Updated 02/01/2015 05:59 EST

Saskatoon's St. Paul's Hospital has highest rate of in-facility deaths

SASKATOON - Saskatoon's St. Paul's Hospital has been identified as having the highest in-hospital death rate in Canada.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information says it studied 83 hospitals across the country.

Kira Leeb, director of health system performance with the institute, says they hope St. Paul's takes note of the ranking.

Leeb says it's meant to be a red flag, adding the deaths "are really deaths that are potentially preventable."

Jean Morrison, president and CEO of St. Paul's, calls the data concerning and says they are taking it seriously.

Morrison says they need to do a further analysis of cases to understand what's going on and what the potential causes are.

The CIHI has been tracking hospital death rates since 2007.

In the 2013-2014 data, more than half of Canadian hospitals are seeing a decrease in the number of deaths, so Leeb said St. Paul's is the exception.

Morrison said this isn't the first time St. Paul's has hit such a high mark.

"We had about the same rate about four or five years ago and it was coming down, so it was a surprise to see this again," Morrison said.

Morrison said improvements are being made constantly and some of the data collected is from 2013, before significant enhancements were made, including the implementation of a Safety Alert System, that she believes will bring that rate down.

Morrison said patients coming to St. Paul's shouldn't be concerned.

Leeb said the six leading causes of death in Canadian hospitals are stroke, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, sepsis and heart attack.

"It would be important to start looking at least at those particular deaths within a hospital to see if the results for those particular patient populations are higher than what they would be expecting," Leeb said.

Dr. Cory Neudorf, chief medical health officer for the Saskatoon Health Region, said in the immediate future they plan to break down this data further.

Once they have established if there are patterns, if any of the deaths were preventable and begin comparing certain areas of concern with other hospitals to see if there's anything they can learn, that's when Neudorf said there will be long-term recommendations.

"Anytime a patient dies and it's unexpected, that's something that is of concern that we need to review and see if there are changes to the care process or anything related to how we've managed the patient that needs to improve," Neudorf said, adding those reviews take place constantly.