Florida heart doctors are accusing Governor Rick Scott (R) of eliminating safety procedures in exchange for political donations.
Tenet Healthcare, a for-profit hospital chain in the state was not meeting proficiency standards for heart surgeries involving infants.
It was in fact recommended that they do not perform any heart surgeries on children under six months of age until they were able to raise their proficiency standards. They ignored this recommendation.
Rick Scott then eliminated those standards entirely. The Republican Governor had recently received a $200, 000 donation from Tenet Healthcare.
“The coincidence is just a little too much,” pediatric cardiologist David Nykanen told CNN. “It’s just a little hard to swallow.”
CNN had previously reported in June that Tenet hospitals had infant mortality rates three-times the national average.
The Florida Department of Health claimed that they had to eliminate the proficiency standards for infant surgery because the State Legislature had not delegated them the power to implement those standards.
“Our number one priority is the health of all Floridians, especially children,” Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said. “We fully support best practices and high standards of care at Florida’s hospitals. As an executive branch agency, the department’s authority is limited to those functions statutorily delegated by the Legislature.”
These quality standards have been in place and uncontested since 1977.
Tenet was quick to defend itself from accusations of legalized bribery.
“At no time have we discussed the pediatric cardiac standards with the governor or his office, or with any elected official or anyone on their staff,” Tenet’s Shelly Weiss Friedberg wrote in an email to CNN. “Our opinion was not sought on the standards nor have we expressed a position on the possible repeal of the standards or the role of the Cardiac Technical Advisory Panel.”
Tenet has been giving large donations to Governor Scott and the Republican Party for years.
“If someone is contributing at that level, obviously they have to have some influence,” said Nykanen, a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s Pediatric Advisory Committee. “If Tenet Healthcare contributed so much money, you’d think they have the ear of the governor and the politicians.”
Ultimately, it is doctors, who fear that Rick Scott is listening more to money than what is best for their patients.
“I can’t think of anywhere else in the country where you have safety standards and someone doesn’t like them, so you just have it repealed,” said Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “These standards have been in use for more than 30 years, and they’re widely acknowledged to ensure safety — why would you repeal them? If the state really felt it didn’t have the legislative authority to have the standards, why wouldn’t they go out and get thatauthority?“
[CNN] [Raw Story] [Follow the Money]