The Johns Hopkins Medicine Board of Trustees has appointed a former federal prosecutor to review the Heart Institute at All Children’s Hospital in Florida after a Tampa Bay Times investigation found high injury and death rates among pediatric patients at the center.
F. Joseph Warin of the law firm Gibson Dunn will lead an external review of the Heart Institute, which offered specialized care for children with heart defects, the hospital said in a statement Tuesday. It’s one in a series of measures the St. Petersburg hospital is taking to reform its pediatric heart program after a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times that found nearly one in 10 patients died in 2017 and others were left with extensive injuries after treatment at the center.
Warin chairs Gibson Dunn’s litigation department in Washington and is co-chair of the firm’s global white collar defense and investigations practice group. His external review is expected to be done by May, and Hopkins plans to share the results with other institutions in an effort to prevent similar mistakes.
In a video announcement, Kevin W. Sowers, president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine, apologized to patients, families, medical providers and the hospital community for the lapses in care. He also laid out steps the hospital is taking to address reforms, including Warin’s investigation, commissioning a monitor to track the hospital’s progress on implementing suggested reforms, and consulting with a team of pediatric heart experts on restarting the Heart Institute.
The hospital stopped all pediatric heart surgeries in October, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“To move forward we must acknowledge our mistakes,” Sowers said. “We owe an apology to our community and to our referring providers. We failed to live up to the trust they placed in us and we will not rest until that trust is restored.”
Sowers also apologized to staff members who warned their supervisors about the problems within the center.
“Many of you courageously spoke out when you had concerns, but were ignored or turned away. That behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated going forward,” he said.
Sowers invited families of patients who did not receive the highest quality of care to meet with him so he could personally apologize.
All Children’s Hospital joined the Johns Hopkins Health System in 2010.
The announcement came after the departures of at least seven leaders following the Times’ investigation, which was published in November and unearthed a pattern of treatment gone wrong in pediatric patients, including children who contracted preventable infections, needles being lost inside infants, sutures bursting, and failing patches for holes in hearts.
Hospital leaders who have left during the past few months include the president, vice dean and physician-in-chief Dr. Jonathan Ellen; Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs, the cardiovascular surgery division chief and director of the Andrews/Daicoff Cardiovascular Program; Jackie Crain, vice president, chief of staff and lead risk-management executive; surgery department chair Dr. Paul Colombani; chief patient safety officer and vice president of medical affairs Dr. Brigitta Mueller; Sylvia Ameen, vice president of marketing, communications and culture/physician engagement; and Dr. Gerhard Ziemer, director of the Heart Institute and chief of cardiovascular surgery.