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Story highlights

Nine babies have died after heart surgery at St. Mary's Medical Center in Florida

A Medicaid agency is investigating because most of the patients who died were on Medicaid

CNN —  

The Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has launched an investigation into deaths of babies following open heart surgeries at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Florida.

St. Mary's Medical Center
CNN
St. Mary's Medical Center

The investigation came in response to a CNN story this week that showed between 2011 to 2013, the West Palm Beach hospital had a 12.5% mortality rate for open heart surgery, three times the national average.

In the U.S., 80% of children's heart surgery programs perform more than 100 surgeries a year. But in 2013, St. Mary's Medical Center performed just 23 operations, a review of the program shows.
CNN
In the U.S., 80% of children's heart surgery programs perform more than 100 surgeries a year. But in 2013, St. Mary's Medical Center performed just 23 operations, a review of the program shows.

CNN finds high surgical death rate for children at a Florida hospital

“We take these allegations very seriously. CMS is actively investigating these complaints,” Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in an email. The agency is investigating because most of the patients who had heart surgery at St. Mary’s were Medicaid patients.

Surgical death rates for babies kept secret from parents

Amelia Campbell
Nneka Campbell
Amelia Campbell

Tenet Healthcare, which owns St. Mary’s, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the federal investigation.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, as well as the state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration and the state Department of Health, did not respond to requests for interviews about the child death rate at St. Mary’s.

A federal official told CNN on Friday that “this is a serious situation.”

Read the documents on St. Marys Compliance Report

“We want to make sure people are not exposed unnecessarily to harm,” the official said.

Is your hospital keeping secrets?

Nneka Campbell, who lost her 10-month-old daughter, Amelia, after heart surgery at St. Mary’s in 2012, said the hospital and the state should see the federal investigation “as a final warning.”

“They need to close this place down,” she said, adding that she was encouraged that the federal government was investigating.

CNN’s story detailed the deaths of nine babies after heart surgery since the program started in 2011. The last of those deaths occurred Tuesday. A 10th baby was left paralyzed.

The head of an expert review panel suggested last year the hospital should stop performing heart surgeries on babies, but the hospital continued to do them, and babies continued to die.