Secret audio recordings provided last month to the New York Times revealed that UNC Children’s Hospital, part of the University of North Carolina health system, showed mortality rates higher than the national average. The hospital had been suspect for some time: children with complex heart conditions had been dying at higher-than-expected rates, and children with low-risk conditions seemed to do poorly. The hospital, after repeated requests from the NYT, released data (https://www.uncchildrens.org/uncmc/unc-childrens/care-treatment/heart/outcomes/) showing a higher death rate than most all institutions in the U.S. that publicly report such information. (Approximately 75 percent of about 115 hospitals that perform pediatric heart surgery nationwide publicly share their mortality statistics on the Society of Thoracic Surgeons website. UNC does not share its data. https://www.sts.org/registries-research-center/sts-national-database)
Some 40,000 babies are born with congenital heart disease each year in the U.S., and about 25 percent of those tiny patients require multiple surgeries in their first months of life, according to Consumer Reports. But it isn’t easy for families to identify high-quality pediatric heart centers or individual surgeons when there is little transparency in congenital heart disease patients and pediatric heart surgery.
If your child has suffered at a Children’s hospital during heart surgery or has died during or after heart surgery, you may be entitled to recover damages from the party or parties responsible. Child injury lawyer Jeffrey Killino is dedicated to helping children and families obtain the compensation they deserve. Contact Jeffrey Killino at 877-875-2927 to learn about your legal options.
Here is one audio clip on the NYT website from cardiologist Dr. Blair Robinson:
“I ask myself, ‘Would I have my children have surgery here?’
In the past, I’d always felt like the answer was ‘yes’ for something simple. …
But now when I look myself in the mirror, and what’s gone on the past month, I can’t say that. And if I can’t say it for my kids—and that should be our group discussion — if we can’t all look ourselves in the mirror and think we’re doing the right thing, then we need to change what we’re doing.”
The Times investigation found that cardiologists were concerned that children with heart issues were dying with higher than ‘normal’ rates for many years, and children undergoing low-risk heart surgeries were suffering higher-than-average complications. In a few of the secret recordings from 2016 and 2017, doctors were urging their bosses to take action.
Here is another NYT clip recording a cardiologist complaining about Dr. Mill, chief surgeon at the time who decided not to come in on a weekend to perform a transplant on a baby when a donor heart became available.
“As a mother of three children, oh my God. It’s inexcusable. As a physician, I mean, we all took the oath. We are supposed to do what’s right for our patients. … This is what you signed up for. Who is he to play God with some kid’s life? I can’t get past this.
This is beyond horrifying. “
The baby’s parents had no idea this had happened.
On the heels of The Times investigation, UNC, the North Carolina Children’s Hospital decided to suspend some complicated child heart surgeries and has taken “several steps, including the examination by outside experts, “to restore confidence in its pediatric heart surgery program,” according to the News & Observer. One of those steps includes an investigation launched by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services of the hospital’s child heart surgery program, the News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) reported.
“I want to acknowledge in the sincerest way possible, that for our team and for me personally, the death of any child is one too many,” said Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health Care.
Children’s Heart Complications Post-Surgery
The exact incidence of common post-operative complications in children is not known. Most common one is post-operative nausea and vomiting followed by respiratory complications leading to hypoxia. A study in the Journal of Anaesthesia, however, concludes that “High incidence of complications after congenital heart surgery makes necessary attention to complications and their treatment after surgery. It is necessary to apply the measures and careful monitoring of patients to minimize these effects.” Another recent study determined that post-operative complications can be reduced by applying necessary measures and accurate monitoring of the patients.
Nationally-recognized child injury attorney Jeffrey Killino has handled a wide variety of children’s hospital heart cases. Our experienced attorneys, paralegals, and investigators share the goal of helping injured families win the compensation they need and the justice they deserve. If your baby has been injured during surgery caused by negligence, call us today at 1-877-875-2927.
Other Hospitals with High Mortality Rates
At least five pediatric heart surgery programs across the country were suspended or shut down in the last decade after questions were raised about their performance.
The UNC Children’s Hospital isn’t the only institution with high mortality rates. A Tampa Bay Times investigation in 2018 was the impetus for a federal review of All Children’s Hospital run by the prestigious Johns Hopkins medical system in St. Petersburg, Florida. One in ten patients died in 2017 at the hospital – triple the mortality rate from 2015.
The reporters spent a year comparing the 10 pediatric heart surgery programs in Florida; analyzed more than 27 million hospital admissions over ten years; sifted through thousands of pages of medical reports and spoke with families across the state. They found serious medical mistakes that were preventable and not disclosed to parents; administrators disregarded safety concerns raised by staff and in 18 months, 11 children died after surgeries performed by the hospital’s two principal heart surgeons.
If not for diligent reporting by such publications, would these institutions simply carry on business as normal?
Attorney Jeffrey Killino is not only an experienced lawyer — he is also a child advocate. When a child is injured during heart surgery, he has the know-how and resources to guide you through the legal process to get what you and your family are entitled to. If your infant or child has suffered a traumatic injury or death because of children’s hospital negligence, Jeffrey Killino can help. Contact attorney Jeffrey Killino today at 877-875-2927.