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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Pediatric Cardiology SHUTDOWN

    The probe into the death of three infants under Stony Brook Hospital’s pediatric cardiac surgery program has culminated in the shutdown of the program and an independent investigation of the entire hospital. The hospital is currently under investigation for its organization, management, operational performance, market strategy, and financial stability.

    The investigations began in June, when the University hired BDC Advisors, a healthcare consulting firm based in San Francisco. Early this August, the University President, Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny, established a ribbon commission. The commission is comprised of five members chosen from ‘national leaders in health care, clinical outcomes, and patient safety,’ with the goal of evaluating SBU Hospital’s overall performance.’ The commission is fully supported by SUNY Chancellor, John R. Ryan.

    The SUNY Board of Trustees, a body of 16 members, has called for an external investigation panel. Dr. Harvey Wachsman, the head of its Health, Science and Hospitals Committee, has said that the ribbon commission will not be independent enough. Dr. Irvin Krukenkamp, Associate Dean of Cardiothoracic Academic Affairs, had originally raised concerns over the quality of the pediatric program. He said that a panel set up by Dr. Kenny ‘will be very difficult to have an objective review if people being reviewed are writing their own reviews.’

    The Hospital is also under scrutiny for not addressing ‘issues that have remained open over the last few years.’ According to a letter issued by the Department of Health, the Hospital is treating a number of patients that ‘remains at or near the minimal acceptable per regulation to maintain’ its program. The Department also cited the unavailability of a surgeon both ‘pre-operatively and post-operatively in order to have questions answered and concerns addressed.’

    The concern is that the hospital does not perform enough of these delicate surgeries to have sufficent practice and expertise in the field.’ According to Dr. Krukenkamp, the Hospital’s pediatric cardiac surgery program handles ’40 to 50 cases per year, but North Shore handles 300 per year, and Columbia does 700 per year.’ He said that there are ‘not enough cases to keep sharp.’ Schneider Children’s Hospital, the only other pediatric cardiac surgery program in Long Island, handles 270 cases per year.

    Earlier this week, the Hospital was fined the maximum amount of $38,000, or $2,000 for each of the charged 19 violations. According to the Health Department, the pediatric cardiac surgery program has been ordered to ‘immediately cease and desist’ due to ‘imminent danger to the health and safety of pediatric cardiac surgery patients.’ Dr. Richard Fine, the Dean of the University’s Medical School, insists that the 3 infant deaths are unrelated to the program.

    Gift of Life, a program that flies in children from outside the United States for specialized heart surgeries, is suffering because of the shutdown. According to the program’s Suffolk Chapter co-chairman, Howard Essenfeld, ’47 of 60 Gift of Life kids from all over the world who were treated at Stony Brook required heart surgery, and a dozen others were treated with catheterization.’

    Around 10 children are scheduled to arrive from the Honduras to the Hospital between Sept. 2 and Oct. 3. Schneider Children’s Hospital has agreed to treat 8 of the children, matching Stony Brook’s rate of $4000. The actual surgeries cost $50,000.

    The pediatric program will resume when Stony Brook hires a qualified full-time surgeon affiliated with another hospital, and’ specializing in heart surgery for children.

    David Raimondo, the lawyer of the Vargas family, said that ‘the shutting down of the program is in the best interest of Long Islanders.’ The Vargas’ son, Gianni, died due to overdosage by the hospital, while under the care of the pediatric cardiology program.’

    On August 18, the Trustee Board passed a resolution with a 2-1 vote calling for an external panel of three to five ‘nationally recognized physicians.’ The physicians will conduct a review. Wachsman believes will this review will ‘restore confidence in the hospital.’

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