Florida Hospital Closes Program Due to CNN Report
June 17th 2015, we posted an article on our blog about the high mortality rate for open heart surgeries–more than three times the national average—at the heart surgery program at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. A CNN investigation reported that from 2011 to 2013, the mortality rate for children’s open heart surgery had a rate of 12.5% and in June of 2015, a 9th baby died after an open heart surgery operation at the hospital. Read the full article.
August 2015, St. Mary’s Medical Center in Florida announced they would close the doors to their pediatric cardiothoracic surgery program on a permanent basis, with no plans to reopen it. According to the hospital, the decision to close the program was made by the hospital and not as a result of a state or federal agency recommendation.
Two days after this announcement, the chief executive officer, Davide Carbone, resigned. St. Mary’s announced in a statement obtained by local media that, “We appreciate Davide’s dedication to both St. Mary’s and the Palm Beach community for the last nine years and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
St. Mary’s continues to deny any wrongdoing and said they decided to close the program because of all the negative publicity they received over the CNN report. In a statement, St. Mary’s blamed “inaccurate media reports” for the closure, saying the reports made it “significantly more challenging to build a sustainable volume.”
After CNN published the results of their investigation, St. Mary’s went on the defensive and called the CNN figure a “deeply flawed calculation,” and the figures were based on an inaccurate assumption of the volume of surgeries being performed. In their rebuttal statement, the hospital said CNN’s mortality calculations were “wrong,” “exaggerated” and “completely erroneous” and that the program’s risk-adjusted mortality rate was within the average range for pediatric heart surgery programs nationwide.
Last year in April, the Florida Department of Health sent a team of expert heart doctors to St. Mary’s to review the children’s heart surgery program. The head of the panel, Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs, a professor of cardiac surgery at Johns Hopkins, suggested they stop doing heart surgeries on babies younger than 6 months and stop doing complex heart surgeries on all children.
The original CNN report stated that the hospital continued to conduct surgery on babies under six months of age despite recommendations from experts advising doctors not to.
According to CNN, the most recent infant death occurred in June 2015. After the baby passed away, St. Mary’s CEO Davide Carbone wrote a letter defending the program as well as Dr. Black. He said in a letter: “The patients we serve are afflicted with severe life-threatening conditions, and it is impossible to eliminate the risk of mortality.”