Man’s Greatest Hospital

April 23rd, 2009 | Sources: Boston Globe

Massachusetts General Hospital can’t seem to get out of its own way lately.

yerouttahereAlready in the doghouse with Bay state public health officials for high mortality rates in its cardiac cath program, the prestigious Harvard Medical School affiliate has suspended its pediatric cardiac surgery program after errors during 2 open-heart surgery procedures caused serious complications.

The public health officials, who have to be considering monthly parking permits in the lot on Fruit Street as a way to control costs, began looking into the incidents shortly after the General notified them last week.

Both babies survived the mishaps, although one sustained neurological damage and required transfer to Children’s Hospital across town.

Just 2 years ago, the General beefed up what had been a tiny pediatric cardiac surgery program by recruiting Jeff Myers, a specialist in the field.

The unfortunate development has reignited debate concerning the extent to which patient outcomes are compromised by policies, or the absence of same, that foster proliferation of multiple low-volume providers for complex, risky procedures like this one.

Children’s Hospital is located just 4 miles west of the General. It does 1,100 pediatric open-heart cases per year, making it the highest-volume program in the country.

The General has managed to log 90 cases in the last 20 months. Meanwhile, about 3 miles south of the General, Tufts Medical Center has a program that did 24 last year.

The General’s “numbers are pretty small” Peter Manning told the Boston Globe. The director of CT surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital added, “when you get below 100 cases you really worry… whether the [surgeon] is doing enough to keep their skills up.”


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