Following a CNN report citing patient mortality rates three times the national average, St. Mary’s Medical Center in Florida permanently shut down its pediatric cardiothoracic surgery program. While the medical center states that the findings in the report were inaccurate, they have voluntarily ended the open heart surgery program. An article in International Business Times discusses the current state of the medical center and the nature of the CNN report that may have led to the end of the program.
According to CNN, a cardiac surgery professor at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute recommended in 2014 that the medical center cease performing open heart surgeries on babies under six months of age. This year, CNN reported that nine infants had died as of 2013 after having heart surgery at the Florida facility. Another baby was paralyzed following a procedure.
The hospital stressed that its decision to close the unit was purely internal and not completed at the request of any federal or state regulatory agency. In a statement announcing the closure, a St. Mary’s spokesperson is quoted as saying that the media report and its “deeply flawed calculation” has caused significant hardship in acquiring new patients and maintaining a necessary volume of work. As a result, they have decided to focus on other services at the hospital that have been more successful.
CNN claims to have utilized records requests and also claims to have spoken with the families of the infants when formulating its report. The news agency did note that St. Mary’s may be producing inflated mortality rate numbers because of its low volume of performed surgeries. The hospital has a surgery volume in the bottom 20 percent of medical centers. According to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, 80 percent of medical centers perform more than 100 pediatric surgeries per year.
High risk medical procedures, like pediatric open heart surgery, require experienced and well trained health professionals. Even when undergoing the most routine medical care, it is important to make sure you know your doctors’ qualifications and are fully assessed of the risks and benefits of all recommended medical procedures.