Pediatric heart surgery program problems

Dealing with serious heart problems in a young child can be risky at any Arizona hospital. However a recent investigative report noted that some hospitals throughout the nation have such poor success rates in pediatric heart surgeries that some colleagues are calling for the closure of unsuccessful programs. One extreme example is a Florida hospital that had a record of nine deaths of babies following heart surgery during a period of less than four years.

There are many factors that could contribute to the poor performance at some hospitals. For example, those with low levels of experience in pediatric heart surgery tend to have worse performance records. Even highly experienced surgeons lose pediatric heart patients, but their numbers tend to be much lower. Experience among nursing professionals is equally important as changes after surgery could prove to be fatal without prompt intervention. Hospitals with smaller surgical programs may have limited staffing in comparison with larger hospitals, another issue that can have a serious impact on a facility’s performance.

Some major insurance companies in the United States provide parents with choices of centers that are known for excellent results when such serious surgery is required. However, those with Medicaid might not be able to access information about the success rate of a hospital. Medicaid is responsible for medical coverage for approximately two out of every five children dealing with congenital heart problems. Ironically, the costs for care tend to be higher at hospitals that have poor success rates because the children treated spend more time in the hospital.

A family dealing with the loss of a member might be reluctant to consider a hospital negligence claim in connection with a high-risk surgery. However, both low-risk and high-risk procedures could be affected by surgical errors, inadequate staffing or other negligent acts or omissions. Legal advice may be helpful if there is uncertainty about such a situation.