Are Florida’s New Hospital Standards Hurting Children?
Florida is dropping hospital standards that have helped keep pediatric heart patients safe since the 1970s. According to a CNN article, the change comes after Tenet Healthcare contributed $200,000 to state lawmakers. Tenet Healthcare is the organization behind St. Mary’s Medical Center, a Florida hospital where several children died during heart surgery.
A CNN investigation into the hospital early last year claimed St. Mary’s Medical Center performed heart surgery on 48 children from 2011 to 2013. The investigation uncovered a 12.5 percent death rate in those years, or three times the national average.
The former standards were in place to prevent inexperienced, understaffed and poorly performing hospitals from carrying out pediatric heart surgeries. In the case of St. Mary’s Medical Center, only one pediatric heart surgeon was on staff and its death rate for pediatric heart surgeries was multiple times higher than other institutions. In addition, it had only performed 23 heart surgeries in 2013 while other hospitals carried out more than 100.
St. Mary’s Medical Center finally shut down its pediatric heart surgery program last year.
Hospital Standards Must Protect Pediatric Heart Patients
Hospital standards are in place to protect patients, in this case, children who could die if they do not receive the best care from the highest performing institutions. Some health care professionals in Florida claimed St. Mary’s Medical Center did not meet these standards, and they demanded the hospital cease performing pediatric heart surgeries. Enforcing hospital standards might have prevented multiple deaths, and it could stop future acts of medical negligence.
However, this blog also raises another question: If parents had data on the performance of pediatric heart surgeries at St. Mary’s Medical Center, would they have chosen another hospital? Let’s not forget the role hospital transparency plays in patient safety as Florida moves forward with these changes.