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Not all pediatric heart surgery hospitals are equal

After a series of botched operations forced the closing of a Florida hospital's pediatric heart surgery program, health care advocates are calling for the shut down of all poor-performing pediatric heart surgery programs across the U.S. and for parents to be informed of hospital success rates before surgeries are performed. As it is now, parents in Ohio and nationwide usually have no way of knowing which hospitals have a good record in pediatric heart surgery and which ones have a significant history of patient injuries and deaths.

At least nine babies died after undergoing heart surgery at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, between 2011 and 2015. Following a CNN investigation into the deaths, the hospital shut down its children's heart surgery unit. However, many other hospitals with high mortality rates are still performing heart surgeries on children nationwide. According to medical experts, quality of care varies widely between hospitals, and parents often have no idea they are handing their children over to programs with questionable records. One of the biggest factors in hospital performance is experience, meaning the more surgeries performed, the better the rate of success. Low-volume hospitals tend to have higher mortality rates.

Some insurance companies are beginning to inform parents which hospitals have the best success rates, and parents are encouraged to ask their insurance providers about the best programs before choosing a hospital for their child's heart procedure. Medicaid does not currently inform parents on the best hospitals, but patient advocates are pushing to change that.

Ohio residents who have been harmed by an error during a surgical procedure may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney and discuss how to proceed. Medical malpractice litigation can be complex, and the attorney will often rely on the opinions of medical experts to determine whether or not the error was caused by professional negligence.

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