Cluster of heart surgery deaths spurs internal review at Ballad Health hospital

Ballad Health resumed cardiac surgeries at Kingsport, Tenn.-based Holston Valley Medical Center Feb. 24 after a temporary suspension to investigate a cluster of patient deaths last week, reports CBS affiliate WJHL.

Johnson City, Tenn.-based Ballad Health acknowledged the cluster of post-cardiovascular surgical deaths in a Feb. 23 statement on its Facebook page. 

"What concerned the team was that it is atypical for us to see a cluster so close together. This does NOT mean anything was wrong with the care," Lindy White, CEO of Kingsport Market Operations for Ballad Health, wrote in the post. 

The health system deployed its quality support and infection prevention teams to participate in an internal review of the deaths at Holston Valley Medical Center. Leaders also notified the Tennessee Department of Health and CDC, which sent state and federal health officials to help with the process. After several days of investigation, Ballad Health leaders and health officials determined the patient deaths were not due to any infection or systemic issues at Holston Valley Medical Center.

"The ultimate conclusion is that the outcomes were not outside the scope of what would be expected based on the severity of the patients' illnesses," Ms. White wrote.

Ballad Health is now seeking to hold accountable one or more employees who posted false information about the situation online, which was then circulated on social media.

"This is not tolerable, and steps will be taken to identify who violated our policies, and maybe even the law," Ms. White wrote. "We will seek to hold anyone accountable who spreads misinformation about patient care, and we will do so unapologetically."

More articles on patient safety and outcomes:
CMS: 2 patient deaths resulted from failures by Kansas hospital staff
Medicare spent $41M+ on sepsis in 2018, HHS says
Daily care team briefings cut hospital stays for lung disease patients

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