UNC Health Care Suspends Some Complex Heart Surgeries At Children's Hospital

Jun 17, 2019

File photo of UNC Hospital.
Credit Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Officials with UNC Health Care on Monday announced several initiatives they say will restore confidence in its pediatric heart surgery program, including pausing the most complex cases until an advisory board of external medical experts reviews the program and makes recommendations.

“I want to acknowledge in the sincerest way possible, that for our team and me personally, the death of any child is one too many,” UNC Health Care CEO Wesley Burks said in a statement. “These steps are part of a comprehensive effort to ensure UNC Health Care’s mission to serve all North Carolinians with the highest quality care is.”

Hospital officials declined an interview request from WUNC.

The hospital has been under investigation after a New York Times report revealed high death rates among pediatric heart patients. The numbers were so worrisome that the hospital’s pediatric cardiologists were reluctant to refer patients to their own surgeons.

UNC Children’s will temporarily pause performing some of the more complex surgeries aimed at repairing congenital heart defects in children.

In their statement, officials said the hospital will also: release Society for Thoracic Surgeons’ (STS) data on patient outcomes, invest in new technology and other enhancements, bring in new medical specialists, create an advisory board of external medical experts, and develop a new structure to support internal hospital reporting.

“While UNC Health Care and its Board of Directors have strong confidence in our extraordinary current pediatric heart surgery team, we believe it is vitally important that both current and future patients, our medical colleagues, key regulators, and the public share this confidence,” said Charlie Owen, chair of UNC Health Care Board.