Executives shuffle at Baylor St. Luke’s following ProPublica investigation

Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center appointed a new president and restructured other staff after an investigation from the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica found mistakes at the Houston-based hospital’s heart transplant center led to patient deaths.

T. Douglas Lawson, PhD, was named as the new president of the medical center, effective immediately. He also serves as CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives Texas Division, which includes Baylor St. Luke’s and 15 other south Texas hospitals. He replaces Gay Nord.

In addition to a new president, the hospital’s chief nursing officer, Jennifer Nitschmann, MSN, RN, and senior vice president of operations, David Berger, MD, left their roles.

“Baylor St. Luke’s has grown to become a leading teaching hospital in the Southwest,” Marc Shapiro, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, said in a statement. “Yet, it has faced significant challenges over the last year, and the Board believes aggressive action is needed to address them.”

Investigation

The leadership changes follow a damning report that revealed a steep decline in quality at Baylor St. Luke’s transplant center, which once held a positive reputation. ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle uncovered serious problems that resulted in a high rate of patient deaths at the hospital. CMS halted federal funding to Baylor St. Luke’s heart transplant program, stating the hospital failed to make needed changes.

The hospital temporarily suspended its heart transplant program following the report in mid-2018. It also hired other staff late last year in an effort to revamp the heart transplant program.

More recently, CMS also opened a review of a patient death after the patient died following a blood transfusion of the wrong blood type.

“Baylor St. Luke’s is deeply saddened over this incident,” Lawson said in a statement. “We are developing a 90-day plan that will include new initiatives in the areas of clinical excellence, patient experience, and workplace culture. We are committed to taking all steps necessary to keep us on the path of excellence and to earn the trust of our patients."