Monday, June 1, 2015

Doc's Financial Self-Interest Wasn't In Infants' Interest

It's well-known that certain procedures are riskier in hospitals that do few of them.  Such is the case with St. Mary's Medical Center, a Tenet Healthcare (Ticker:THC) hospital in Miami Beach, Florida.  Its Board-Certified pediatric surgeon Dr. Black (who's white, incidentally) told Mrs. Campbell he'd never lost a patient at St. Mary's before he killed her daughter – the fourth to die after he attempted a complex cardiac procedure on a newborn at St. Mary's.

So, why does a doc BS patients like this?  Running the pediatric surgery program at a hospital that aspires to make big bucks on highly-compensated procedures is a sweet gig.  The annual salary of a Board-Certified pediatric surgeon is bigger than most Americans' life savings, and running a program involves an especially big bunch of boodle.  And the doc's got to make the hospital enough money to justify the payments.  Apparently, Dr. Black didn't want to lose the sale.

Although state regulators didn't find problems with the hospital, the chairman of the Cardiac Technical Advisory Panel for Florida's Children's Medical Services (part of Florida's Department of Health) found problems.  St. Mary's extremely low case volume left it without the skills to meet the national average mortality for the complex cardiac procedures it managed to convince cardiologists to refer to the hospital.  Consequently, the hospital's mortality rate was calculated by CNN using Freedom of Information Act requests to Florida regulators and determined to be about three times the national average.  Tenet Healthcare claims that's untrue, but won't provide the true number.

Go figure.

UPDATE: Ninth infant died in connection with St. Mary's pediatric cardiac surgery program.

UPDATE: Florida regulators won't investigate complaint lodged by dead patient's mother.

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