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Hospital Closing Infant Heart-Surgery Program

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St. Mary's Medical Center
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St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach is closing its infant cardiac-surgery program following media reports about a series of deaths.

The hospital had already stopped performing heart surgery on babies under 6 months old in June, after nine children died during the program's first four years. Reports by CNN in early June drew national attention to the deaths.

The hospital has been reviewing its options since the reports and said Monday it made the decision to close the program and was not compelled by a state agency or other regulatory body.

In a statement, St. Mary's indicated that media reports played a role in its decision.

"The inaccurate media reports on our program have made it significantly more challenging to build sustainable volume in our program," the statement said. "At this time we feel it is best to focus on other services needed by our community."

But Louis St. Petery, a pediatric cardiologist and children's-health activist, said the St. Mary's program never had the volume of cases needed to maintain the highest standards.

"If you're not going to run a quality cardiac program for children, then you don't need to be in that business," he said.