Excellent medical care is the dream of every parent with a desperately ill child. At North Carolina Children’s Hospital, medical care became a nightmare for parents and their children with complicated cardiac conditions.
New York Times Investigation University of North Carolina Cardiothoracic Unit
In May of this year, The New York Times published a disturbing investigation into goings-on at the formerly well-respected hospital that is part of the University of North Carolina medical complex in Chapel Hill.
The article revealed the concern of referring cardiologists for the surgical practices at the hospital—going back as far as 2016. Despite the “everything is fine” statements of hospital leadership, audio recordings made at internal meetings during the last several years captured the concern for care at the hospital. In one recording, Chief of pediatric cardiology Dr. Timothy Hoffman states “It’s a nightmare right now, we are in crisis and everyone is aware of that.”
At issue are the death rates and poor outcomes for children with dire and not-so-dire cardiac conditions. From injury during surgery to fatal complications, the morbidity rate at the University of North Carolina Cardiothoracic Unit almost topped the chart out of 82 reporting facilities nationwide.
High Risk Always Accompanies Pediatric Heart Surgery
Risk is always high for pediatric heart surgery. Within any surgical specialty there are patients facing more challenges. When the less severe cases, the ones who could be expected to see better outcomes, fare poorly, concern for standard of care, practices, and hospital culture are appropriate. When faced with concern from cardiologists and physicians about the ongoing poor outcomes of pediatric patients, the now-retired chief of the hospital, Dr. Kevin Kelly laid it out straight. Fewer surgeries meant lower revenues and jobs, even of the cardiology staff.
The stories and statistics coming out of North Carolina Children’s Hospital are stark. In response to the article in the Times, the North Carolina Secretary of State has called for a team from the state division of health services to work with federal regulators to investigate the incidents occurring at the hospital.
No timeline is currently set for the state and federal investigation. Says North Carolina Secretary of State Mandy Cohen, “As a mother and a doctor my heart goes out to any family that loses a child. Patient safety, particularly for the most vulnerable children, is paramount.”
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