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Autumn Parry / The Californian

Smog is seen during sunset at the foot of the Grapevine in this June 2013 photo.

The California Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development is releasing reports today comparing more than 300 hospitals' quality of care based on a dozen different conditions and procedures.

The report titled "Hospital Inpatient Mortality Indicators for California, 2010-2011" compares mortality rates for procedures and ailments including stroke, brain surgery, heart attack and pneumonia, a news release said.

Hospitals reported the data to the state agency and the information was risk-adjusted to account for factors including patients' other health conditions, severity of illness and age, said Joseph Parker, manager of the Healthcare Outcomes Center at OSHPD.

"I think one of the most interesting things is that we find fairly consistent performance at hospitals," across the different measures and the two years, Parker said.

The 2010 and 2011 data shouldn't be compared to reports from previous years because the agency's methodology changed. Instead of benchmarking hospitals in comparison to the nation, now they are compared only to state data, Parker said.

The state official said consumers, hospitals and insurance companies and large employers can use the data to see how hospitals measure up.

"It provides the consumers an opportunity to see more transparency in their health care system," he said.

Overall, Kern's local hospitals generally performed as expected in terms of the state average, Parker said.

"I think the basic message for Kern County is good," he said.

The data is available online at

Local air district officials proclaimed Monday that the valley endured last week's heat wave without violating a smog standard that can trigger hefty federal fines.

With temperatures blazing above normal conditions, the weather was "ideal" for generating ozone, which could lead to a violation of the one-hour federal ozone standard, according to a San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District news release.

Air district officials praised businesses and the public for cutting down on emissions, noting that smog-producing pollution from valley businesses has fallen 80 percent since 1980. In turn, air quality has improved and the valley's number of exceedances of federal standards has dropped, the news release said.

In 2012, the valley had just two exceedances of the one-hour ozone standard, down from 56 in 1996.

Breaching the federal standard comes at a high cost. Valley businesses and residents will pay off a $29 million annual penalty from a handful of exceedances in 2010 through fees, the news release said.

Exceedances of the one-hour ozone standard remain a problem in late summer, air officials said, particularly with back-to-school traffic. The air district will work with schools and parents to keep traffic and idling down with an outreach and incentive program, the news release said.

The district also issues "Air Alerts" when there is a risk of violating the one-hour ozone standard. During an alert, residents are encouraged to reduce emissions by abstaining from idling while taking students to and from school, carpooling, and not using drive-throughs.

Businesses and governments are encouraged to move operations like lawn care to early morning or late evening, allow for flexible work schedules, encourage employee carpools, use telecommuting and join the district's "Healthy Air Living Partner" program.

A local company donated $11,400 to the San Joaquin Community Hospital Foundation last week to help cancer patients get to and from treatment.

CALPI Inc. owners Larkie and Bonnie Barnett donated the money from their 14th annual team roping event Friday, according to a hospital news release.

The gift will benefit The AIS Cancer Center Transportation Program. The AIS Cancer Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital opened in April, and many patients at the new program do not have reliable transportation for appointments, the news release said.

-- Californian staff writer Rachel Cook