Patients received medications that weren’t ordered by doctors; objects were mistakenly left in patients after surgery; and ultrasound probes were reused without being property disinfected, government inspectors found. The hospital says it is fixing the problems.
Hospital leaders released the scathing government inspection report on Tuesday, along with a plan to correct significant lapses in patient care. The changes follow a yearlong investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle.
In one case, a patient claims a surgeon sewed a major vein closed, causing blood to back up in his head. In the other, a patient alleges that the same surgeon sewed through his colon, filling his abdomen with feces. The lawsuits follow a yearlong investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle.
The sudden removal of the three executives follows a yearlong investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle into widespread problems at the hospital, including deaths in its heart transplant program.
David Kveton died a week after receiving a new heart at the Houston hospital in 2017, and his story was featured in a ProPublica and Houston Chronicle investigation. A new lawsuit alleges a series of medical errors.
Some patients and family members who came to the Houston hospital for liver and lung transplants have complained about the quality of care provided. A St. Luke’s spokeswoman says the transplant programs still meet national benchmarks and argues against focusing on outcomes from a single calendar year.
After becoming the nation’s busiest lung transplant program six years ago, the hospital scaled back the number and difficulty of transplants it performed. For some patients, that meant having to look elsewhere for treatment.
Defibrillator paddles did not work during a patient’s heart transplant in January, and a backup set was not nearby. The transplant ultimately failed, and the patient died two months later. His case was featured in a May article.
The hiring of two outside surgeons comes after Medicare terminated funding to the heart transplant program, citing poor outcomes in recent years. Hospital leaders also hired a new top transplant administrator, saying the new staff members will help move the program forward.
A Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center physician alleges in a lawsuit that hospital officials retaliated against him for expressing concerns about ICU care. The Houston hospital has denied the allegation in court filings.
The revised rules, proposed this week as part of the agency’s efforts to reduce “burdensome” federal regulations, would no longer penalize hospitals if too many of their patients die following transplants. St. Luke’s in Houston recently lost its Medicare funding for heart transplants for that very reason.
Notes released by a federal agency indicate that one of the hospital’s top heart transplant doctors spoke about “a retiring surgeon” who “wouldn’t stop performing transplants” in explaining a rash of patient deaths. Only Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier matches that description.
Carolyn Dineen King, a senior U.S. Circuit Court judge, resigned from the St. Luke’s board on May 30, two weeks after ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle detailed deaths and complications in the famed heart program.
ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle reported in May that Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier had often failed to disclose his payments from medical device makers in articles he authored. Since then, he’s amended his disclosures for three pieces in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Federal health officials say the hospital hasn’t done enough to improve care after a string of patient deaths. The decision comes a month after ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle found serious problems with the program.
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