The USA Today newspaper has a message for visitors to San Diego who might get sick: Look out.

In a story published today about the state of hospitals in tourist hot spots, the paper lists four local hospitals among 24 near popular travel destinations that have “death rates among the worst in the USA.”

The story points a finger at Oceanside’s Tri-City Medical Center, La Mesa’s Sharp Grossmont Hospital, Escondido’s Palomar Medical Center and Poway’s Pomerado Hospital. Each of the hospitals has an estimated death rate higher than the national average for heart failure, pneumonia or both.

The paper analyzed death-rate numbers from, which compiles data gathered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The government adjusts the death-rate statistics — which estimate how many patients die within 30 days of being admitted — to account for how sick patients are.

USA Today looked at numbers released earlier this summer that cover the period from mid-2005 to 2008.

Heart-attack death rates were similar to national rates for the four hospitals listed, according to the data.

But the heart-failure death rate is listed as worse than the national average at Tri-City Medical Center and Grossmont Hospital. The pneumonia death rate is worse than the national average at Tri-City, Pomerado Hospital and Palomar Medical Center.

According to a USA Today story published in July about newly released national statistics, “at 5.9% of hospitals, patients with pneumonia died at rates significantly higher than the national average. With heart failure, 3.4% of hospitals had death rates higher than the average, and 1.2% of hospitals were higher when it came to heart attack.”


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