For the parents of babies and children who have died at St. Mary’s
pediatric heart surgery program, under pediatric cardiologist Dr. Michael
Black, the news this week that the hospital is closing down the program
may come with little solace.
We wrote back in June why
St. Mary’s may be held liable for the death of at least nine babies who died post-op from surgical complications after
a story from CNN broke claiming that the death rate at the pediatric open-heart
surgery ward at St. Mary’s was unusually and statistically higher
than the national average.
The pediatric heart program opened in 2011, with Dr. Michael Black running
the program. Since then, at least nine babies have died while in St. Mary’s
care, and possibly more. One family lost their baby following surgery
the same week that the CNN report broke.
St. Mary’s CEO Dan Carbone had vehemently defended St. Mary’s
in the wake of the story, calling CNN “irresponsible” in their
reporting. Dr. Michael Black, the head surgeon of the unit, was cited
in the story as being inexperienced in complex pediatric open-heart surgery,
and therefore unfit to run the program.
Dr. Black has since hired a libel lawyer to possibly bring a civil suit
against CNN. Dr. Black is also the defendant in at least one baby death
civil suit case, but according to the Palm Beach Post, the family’s
attorneys have had to file emergency motions in to compel Dr. Black to
sit for depositions that the lawyers say he has been intentionally avoiding.
This week brought more bad news for St. Mary’s, whose parent company,
Tenent Healthcare, has had its share of controversy concerning its hospital
programs all across the country. The company announced that following
the CNN story, the pediatric cardiology program at St. Mary’s has
been closed. The company blames CNN for what it described as a major decline
in pediatric patients.
The fact is that in 2013, Carbone had petitioned a panel of pediatric cardiology
experts from several prominent children’s hospitals, universities,
and foundations from all around the state to conduct a site and program
visit at St. Mary’s. That visit happened in 2014. The lead surgeon
of the panel, Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs, said in his concluding report that Dr.
Black and the pediatric open-heart surgery ward at St. Mary’s simply
lagged the critical patient mass to operate the program safely and effectively.
In other words, Dr. Jacobs said, St. Mary’s (and Dr. Black) was not
performing enough pediatric open-heart surgeries to get good at it. No
doubt that following CNN’s investigative report, there were even
fewer families who were electing for their baby to be treated by the team
at St. Mary’s, leading to the program’s shuttering.
Another development this week included the sudden resignation of St. Mary’s
CEO, Carbone. Tenent confirmed today that Carbone is out, and the hospital’s
current Chief Operating Officer will be in place as the interim CEO.
It’s unclear what Carbone’s next move it.
The shuttering of the program and the resignation of the hospital’s
CEO may offer damning evidence that the pediatric heart unit at St. Mary’s
should have never been opened in the first place. The unit was ill-equip
to meet the rigors and high-bar of medical proficiency required to safely
offer heart surgeries to the babies of local area families.
If you or someone you know lost their baby after electing to undergo pediatric
heart surgery at St. Mary’s, performed by Dr. Michael Black, we
encourage you to call our law firm today. We may be able to help you secure
compensation for your loss. Call (561) 600-5605.