ProPublica editor: Baylor St. Luke's transplant rates beginning to fall below national averages

A senior editor with ProPublica spoke with Houston Public Radio Dec. 4 about the publication's ongoing investigation into Houston-based Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, citing one year's worth of data about the hospital's various transplant programs.

Since May, ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle have jointly published a series of investigations examining quality and patient safety concerns at Baylor St. Luke's. The most recent piece in the series examines the deaths of patients who received liver or lung transplants at the hospital in 2017.

ProPublica Senior Editor Charles Ornstein said the data analyzed in the story indicates that, of the 85 patients who received a liver transplant at Baylor St. Luke's in 2017, at least 15 died within a year of surgery — an increase in the number of deaths from that particular type of surgery compared to previous years, according to data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients examined by ProPublica.

The hospital's lung transplant program also saw double the mortality rate in 2017 compared to the past two and a half years. In 2017, at least seven of the hospital's 54 lung transplant recipients died within a year of surgery, the report states.

Mr. Ornstein said the data ProPublica analyzed did not pose a threat to Baylor St. Luke's federal funding because it only comprised one year's worth of data. Instead, he said the data analyzed "show[s] that the trend is, at least with the liver program, beginning to look below national averages."

In August, CMS terminated Medicare and Medicaid funding for Baylor St. Luke's heart transplant program. The hospital filed an administrative appeal with the agency in September.

A Baylor St. Luke's spokesperson told Houston Public Radio the institution is "disappointed that the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica did not include the stories of many patients who have publicly praised our transplant programs for their care." He also noted the publications interviewed patients who had successful outcomes post-transplant surgery, but that they "failed to tell [those patients'] stories."

To access the full report, click here.

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