UNC Children's to suspend some heart surgeries amid investigations

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UNC Children's Hospital in Chapel Hill will temporarily pause complex heart surgeries while health officials investigate its cardiac surgery program, the hospital announced June 17.

UNC Children's came under fire after The New York Times published a 7,000-word investigative report about the heart surgery program May 30. The report found the hospital's cardiologists had expressed serious concerns about the program's safety and quality in 2016. The report also noted UNC Children's was one of 33 children's hospitals nationwide that does not publicly share mortality data through the Society for Thoracic Surgeons.

As part of its announcement, UNC shared numerous initiatives to "restore confidence in its pediatric heart surgery program," including creating its own external advisory board to review the cardiac surgery program and suggest improvements as necessary. The hospital will not perform complex heart surgeries until the advisory board and state and federal health officials have completed their inspections of the program.

UNC Children's also plans to publicly share its outcomes data; create a family advisory council to improve the healthcare experience for pediatric heart patients; and invest $10 million in technology and other program enhancements over the next two years.

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

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