It’s a tricky job, measuring hospital performance, but one well worth doing.

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies recently announced it intends to develop a report card that rates care at New Brunswick hospitals.

Some have compared this to the provincial government’s online service that shows if restaurants run afoul of health department standards. That system has much in common with one that rates hospitals on patient outcomes, quality of care, efficiency, appropriate wait times for patients’ conditions and other elements.

But as government is not in the business of running restaurants and is in the business of running hospitals, a government system that comes clean about the state of restaurants is bound to be more open and more forthcoming than one about the state of the province’s hospitals.

That is why such a project as developing hospital report cards is so important and must be independent of government. Without this type of information readily available, would-be patients are left on their own to judge if they want to enter a specific hospital. Worse than left on their own actually, for patients are left to sift through others’ experiences, rumours and the odd horror story about hospital care.

Twice in recent weeks, Gleaner readers have written to these pages in search of others who contracted C difficile infections in area hospitals. That information should be available in a more formal fashion.

Much is made of wait times because they are easily measured. We know how long someone has waited for a knee or hip replacement, to begin cancer treatment or to see a specialist. But the raw data of the length of wait might not tell the whole story. Officials at the Atlantic Institute say they intend to weigh wait time against the patient’s condition and outcome. Information about patients’ survival rates could be correlated with wait times and conditions.

In other words, did someone die because they were made to wait too long? Did their condition worsen to a dangerous degree?

That’s vital information we say needs to be measured so the system can improved. Not only can potential patients who read the report cards decide in which hospital they wish to have a procedure done, they can let their government representatives know they are not pleased that cuts to funding have damaged a hospital’s ability to do the job safely.

Because everyone knows you don’t make improvements by cutting budgets, no matter how earnestly the spin doctors try to tell us that.

Now the damage done by hospital funding cuts will be measured, and the public will be able to apply pressure to this wound to heal it.