What’s going on with the Kentucky Children’s Hospital? It continues to refuse to provide data regarding pediatric heart surgery deaths despite the March 27, 2013 Open Records Decision of the Kentucky Attorney General that found that the University of Kentucky violated the Open Records Act “by withholding records showing date of a physician’s last surgery, mortality statistics, and an unspecified program review document under HIPPA, the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005, and KRS 311.377(2).”
On December 11, 2012, a local Kentucky FM radio station licensed to the University of Kentucky and serving the Lexington and central Kentucky area filed a Kentucky Open Records Request with the University of Kentucky, seeking access to its records indicating the number of surgeries performed by Dr. Mark Plunkett at its Kentucky Children’s Hospital in 2010, 2011 and 2012; the date of the last surgery performed by Dr. Mark Plunkett; payments received for surgeries performed by Dr. Mark Plunkett for 2010 and 2011; the mortality rate of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery cases in 2010, 2011 and 2012; and, documentation related to any evaluations/accreditation of the pediatric cardiothoracic surgery program from 2010-2012.
In response, the University of Kentucky only provided the number of surgeries provided by Dr. Plunkett for the years in question (110 in 2010, 81 in 2011, and 62 in 2012) and information regarding payments received for surgeries performed Dr. Plunkett for 2010 and 2011 ($288,522 in 2010 and $255,380 in 2011) – the University of Kentucky refused to provide the other requested information, citing patient privacy interests. The radio station appealed the refusal to provide the balance of the information requested to the Kentucky Attorney General, who requested to review the requested records in camera (in private). The University of Kentucky refused, which led to the March 27, 2013 Open Records Decision by the Kentucky Attorney General, from which the University of Kentucky subsequently appealed to the Kentucky circuit court.
The great efforts being made by the Kentucky Children’s Hospital to not disclose its pediatric heart surgery mortality rates have caught the attention of CNN. CNN has reported that in October 2012, Dr. Mark Plunkett, Kentucky Children’s Hospital’s chief heart surgeon and its only surgeon performing open-heart surgeries, went on paid leave and the Kentucky Children’s Hospital stopped performing pediatric heart surgeries, without public explanation. CNN reported that the executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Kentucky’s health care system, which includes Kentucky Children’s Hospital, put the Kentucky Children’s Hospital’s pediatric heart surgery program on hold because the mortality rates weren’t what he wanted them to be (“They were OK, and OK isn’t good enough for me. It’s got to be better. It’s got to be good.”).
CNN has reported that Dr. Plunkett returned from his leave of absence and subsequently resigned from the University of Kentucky to take a position with the University of Florida. Kentucky Children’s Hospital plans on hiring a new pediatric cardiac surgeon and then re-opening its program sometime in the future.
But that does not satisfy the ire of the parents of some of Dr. Plunkett’s cardiac surgery patients at Kentucky Children’s Hospital who allege that doctors and nurses at the hospital gave them vague answers when they asked specific questions such as how many times Dr. Plunkett had done the specific procedures that their children required and what his success rate had been. But the executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Kentucky’s health care system believes that such statistics would be of limited use to patient parents: parents would not understand statistics and rates and they would “have a hard time understanding data.”
If you or your child were injured as a result of surgery in Kentucky or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the advice of a Kentucky medical malpractice attorney (or a medical malpractice attorney in your state) who may investigate your claim for you and file a medical malpractice lawsuit on your behalf, if appropriate.
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