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Sun’s ‘Do No Harm’ hospital series garners new acclaim

Updated Monday, April 18, 2011 | 10:11 p.m.

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Marshall Allen

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Alex Richards

The Las Vegas Sun’s series on hospital care continued its run of accolades Monday, honored as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting while also receiving the top journalism award from the National Institute for Health Care Management.

Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas,” which represented more than two years of reporting, identified preventable infections and injuries — including surgical mishaps — that have occurred in Las Vegas hospitals. The series was based on a review of 2.9 million patient billing records that had been turned over by hospitals to the state for analysis, but which had not been examined until the Sun obtained them.

The Pulitzer Prize judges commended Sun reporters Marshall Allen and Alex Richards for “compelling reports on patients who suffered preventable injuries and other harm during hospital care, taking advantage of print and digital tools to drive home their findings.”

The Pulitzer for local reporting was awarded to Chicago Sun-Times reporters Frank Main, Mark Konkol and John J. Kim for their examination of violence in Chicago neighborhoods.

Monday’s recognitions come a week after the series won top prize for its circulation size from the organization Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Allen and Richards set out to impose a new openness about the quality of hospital care and to hold facilities accountable for patient outcomes. Their findings, presented in a five-part newspaper series and a multimedia presentation at LasVegasSun.com, resulted in consumers having access to quality-of-care data that will help them make better-informed decisions. The series has triggered several bills in the Nevada Legislature to force hospitals to be more transparent in the disclosure of data about the quality of patient care.

Richards, who was the Sun’s computer-assisted reporting specialist, was responsible for examining and analyzing the data. He has since left the Sun for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

To put the findings of the data in human context, Allen interviewed 250 doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and patients who told their stories of harm suffered in Las Vegas hospitals. The series also examined the fundamental reasons why Las Vegas hospitals are deficient in various areas, and concluded with suggestions of what they can do to improve patient care, based on successful initiatives elsewhere in the country. Allen has departed the Sun for the New York City-based investigative reporting nonprofit ProPublica.

“Do No Harm” has also been recognized with a Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, sponsored by Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy; the National Headliners Awards as “Best of Show” among entries from newspapers of all circulation sizes and first place for investigative journalism; and first-place honors in the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards.

The National Institute for Health prize, which includes a $10,000 award, will be presented next month in Washington.

The Las Vegas Sun won the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2009 for stories about construction worker deaths on the Strip.

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  1. Well done! And the new VegasInc site looks like it will also be winning awards in the future.