St. Mary's Medical Center in Florida announced Monday that it will permanently end its pediatric cardiothoracic surgery program, following a media report that stated the hospital's mortality rate of open heart surgeries is more than three times the national average. According to the medical center, "inaccurate" media findings were the reason for the closure of the program, which started in 2011.
In June, CNN reported that at least nine infants died after heart surgery and a tenth baby was paralyzed as of 2013. Furthermore, the deaths due to surgery prevailed even after a cardiac surgery professor at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute recommended the medical center in June 2014 to stop the open heart surgeries on babies below the age of six months, according to CNN.
St. Mary’s released a statement Monday, announcing the shutting of the program. “We are proud of the work that has been done and the lives that have been saved. This is the decision of the hospital and not based on a decision or recommendation by the State of Florida or any regulatory agency,” the medical center said.
"The inaccurate media reports on our program have made it significantly more challenging to build sustainable volume in our program. At this time we feel it is best to focus on other services needed by our community," the hospital said in the statement.
CNN calculated the death rates under the program after filing records requests and confirming the deaths with parents of the infants. CNN also said that compared to other hospitals, St. Mary's performed low volume of pediatric surgeries, which can potentially lead to higher mortality rates. According to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, cited by CNN, 80 percent of medical centers perform more than 100 pediatric surgeries a year and anything less than that is considered "low volume."
However, the medical center said in June that the CNN figure was a “deeply flawed calculation” and alleged that the network arrived at the conclusion based on an incorrect assumption of the volume of surgeries performed at the hospital. The medical center also maintained that the program's mortality rate was in line with the national average.