Media report of pediatric heart surgery deaths prompts executive resignations

Several executives and staffers––including the president––at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, have stepped down from their roles following an investigation from The Tampa Bay Times that uncovered a rising mortality rate for heart surgeries.

The Times found the number of deaths for heart surgeries at the hospital tripled from 2015 to 2017. All Children’s had the highest mortality rate of any pediatric heart surgery program in Florida last year.

The report uncovered that the mortality rate had climbed despite warnings about problems in the program from at least eight hospital employees.

“We are devastated when children suffer,” said a statement from Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Baltimore-based owner of All Children's. “Losing a child is something no family should have to endure, and we are committed to learning everything we can about what happened at the Heart Institute, including a top-to-bottom evaluation of its leadership and key processes. The events described in recent news reports are unacceptable.”

Those who resigned included:

  • Jonathan Ellen, MD, president, vice dean and physician-in-chief
  • Jeffrey Jacobs, MD, chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery and director of the Andrews/Daicoff Cardiovascular Program
  • Jackie Crain, vice president, chief of staff 
  • Paul Colombani, MD, chair of the surgery department

Kevin Sowers, president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine, will step in to temporarily lead the hospital.

U.S. representatives from Florida called on more oversight from CMS and found the resignations to be appropriate.

“We continue to call for a federal investigation to provide the answers and accountability demanded by the seriousness of this situation,” Representatives Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Charlie Crist (FL-13) said in a joint statement. “Major corrective actions must be taken to reestablish the high quality of care patients deserve and the preeminent reputation the institution held for decades."