Mass General in the Doghouse

February 27th, 2009 | Sources: Boston Globe

Bay State public health officials have discovered that the cardiac catheterization programs at Boston’s vaunted Massachusetts General Hospital and Worcester’s St. Vincent Hospital had unexpectedly high death rates in 2007.

isthatamisprintIn fact 43 of 1,543 patients undergoing the procedure at the General died and a ridiculous 16 of 112 patients died at St. Vincent.

That was significantly higher than state norms after accounting for severity of illness.

Hospital officials at both facilities attributed the high mortality rates to aggressive treatment strategies involving seriously ill patients, often at the request of family or referring physicians.

Which is better than leaving the old meat cleaver inside the body but it sure sounds like a quality problem in any case.

“Some of these patients are very difficult and quite ill,” St. Vincent’s CMO Octavio Diaz told the Boston Globe.  “Sometimes it’s very difficult to say no to those patients and their families.”

But he and Michael Fifer, director of the General’s cath lab promised to give it the old college try. They’re mandating a second opinion from a cardiologist before green-lighting caths on critically ill patients.

allisforgivenConveniently, at the time of the announcement Paul Dreyer, the state’s director of healthcare safety and quality already had data in hand for 2008 and the death rates had settled down at both facilities so he saw no need to suspend the programs.

Which is good for everyone because that’s a story that would have gone national in a heartbeat.

So there’ll be a few extra inspections, an outside expert will fly in for a look before catching a Sox game and the shuttle home, maybe some extra documentation here and there and that’ll be the extent of it.


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