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November 29, 2022

Journalists investigate high infant mortality

By MEAGAN PEOPLES | December 6, 2018

A year long investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that one in 10 patients died at the All Children’s Hospital’s Heart Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. last year, which was taken over by the Hopkins Hospital six years earlier. 

The Hopkins All Children’s Hospital provides pediatric care for infants through teens and is ranked 44th nationally in pediatric cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. The Heart Institute is specifically dedicated to treating children with heart defects. 

In an email to The News-Letter, Director of Public Relations and Corporate Communications Kim Hoppe issued a statement on behalf of Hopkins Medicine. The statement emphasized the institution’s commitment to patient care. 

“When we learned about the issues within the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Heart Institute, we worked with their leadership to make a number of changes, including suspending all open-heart surgeries. We are working closely with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to ensure that care for our smallest patients and their families meets Johns Hopkins’ high standards for excellence,” Hoppe wrote. 

In 2011, All Children’s Hospital became part of the Johns Hopkins Health System and the University’s sixth hospital. At the end of 2012, Dr. Jonathan Ellen, the director of pediatrics at the Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, and Dr. Paul Colombani, the director of pediatric surgery at the Hopkins Children’s Center, were moved into key roles at All Children’s Hospital. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Ellen, who became the hospital’s CEO and chief of pediatric surgery, took special interest in the heart surgery program. Ellen announced he wanted to expand the Heart Institute in 2015. 

Between 2015 and 2017, mortality rates for heart surgery patients tripled, the highest of all such units in Florida. In early 2017, All Children’s Hospital stopped performing complex procedures. The most difficult cases, including surgery patients younger than a month old, were sent to other hospitals. The Tampa Bay Times reported that All Children’s Hospital staff had raised concerns as early as 2015. All surgeries were eventually stopped. 

In 2017, the death rate was the highest of any Florida pediatric heart program in the last decade according to the Tampa Bay Times. It also found that potential errors and surgery complications were kept from parents. 

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