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Pediatric Heart Surgery In The Legislative Spotlight After CNN Investigation

St. Marys Medical Center
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Credit St. Marys Medical Center
The Florida Channel

Standards for hospitals that perform heart surgery on children are becoming a focus of the Florida legislature. The move comes after a CNN report last Summer found nine infants died after heart surgery at West Palm Beach's St Mary's Hospital over four years. Now lawmakers want to create a permanent oversight committee to govern standards of care and staffing.

“We don’t want to read about any children dying at any hospitals, and I don’t think we will in the future with this new board," said Sen. Eleanor Sobel. "But just in case there are problems, maybe we could see what their [the committee's] findings are.”

Sobel believes the board should issue public reports and findings.

The state repealed a law in 2001 that created standards for care and staffing limits. The Senate’s plan would establish a permanent oversight committee for hospital programs under the state’s Children’s Medical Services program which serves kids with severe health needs.   The Department of Health can create its own, but so far it hasn’t.

According to the News Service of Florida, "At the time, St. Mary's and the state contested CNN's allegations.But in August, the hospital shuttered its pediatric cardiology unit; its chief executive resigned."

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.