ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle are investigating troubles at Baylor St. Luke’s in Houston, an illustrious heart program that has recently had some of the worst outcomes in the country.
The hospital and its legendary surgeon Denton Cooley performed some of the world’s first heart transplants back in the 1960s. In recent years, though, it has had some of the worst heart transplant outcomes in the country.
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.
St. Luke’s in Houston Replaces Its President, Other Top Leaders After Series of Care Lapses, Recent Deadly Error
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.
St. Luke’s in Houston Replaces Heart Transplant Surgical Director After Program Loses Medicare Funding
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.
“They’ve Got to Execute You”: St. Luke’s Doctor Faces Discipline After Raising Patient Care Concerns
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.
The action is a stunning blow for a historic program that has performed among the most heart transplants in the nation.
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.
A leading group of surgeons gave the Houston hospital poor marks for heart bypasses. Hospital officials acknowledge the low rating, but say outcomes have improved in the past year.
Bud Frazier, a pioneer in the development of artificial hearts, filed a libel suit alleging he was “falsely” portrayed in two articles exploring alleged lapses in research and ethical practices.
He Went In for a Heart Transplant. He Suffered Severe Brain Damage. Now His Family Is Suing St. Luke’s.
After a heart transplant in August 2016, Ernest “Chris” Keys can’t talk or walk. The Houston hospital is under pressure for the quality of its once-renowned heart program.
Supporters of a Famed Houston Surgeon Have Alleged Inaccuracies in Our Investigation. Here’s Our Response
Several dozen people have authored letters defending Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier and criticizing an investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle. We stand behind our story.
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.