HOUSTON -- A Houston hospital has removed its president and several other leaders following an unusually high number of patient deaths, a loss of some federal funding and a recent case in which a patient died after receiving a transfusion of the wrong blood type.
Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center announced the decision to replace its president, Gay Nord, its chief nursing officer and a top physician on Monday, the Houston Chronicle reported. The departures come after investigative reports by the newspaper and ProPublica last year revealed a high rate of patient deaths within the hospital's renowned heart transplant program, as well as major complications after heart bypass surgery and repeated complaints about inadequate nursing.
St. Luke's lost Medicare and Medicaid funding for heart transplants in August, after the federal health agency found the hospital failed to fix its ongoing issues.
The leadership changes come in response to several missteps, particularly the fatal blood transfusion error on an emergency room patient, the hospital said in a news release .
Nord will be replaced by Doug Lawson, a regional executive of Catholic Health Initiatives, which owns the hospital. The hospital's chief nursing officer, Jennifer Nitschmann, and its senior vice president of operations, Dr. David Berger, have also left their positions, the hospital said.
The newspaper was unable to reach Nord and Nitschmann. Berger declined to comment.
Dr. Ashish Jha, an expert in hospital quality measures, said health care facilities across the country have robust systems in place to prevent patients from receiving the wrong blood during transfusions.
"So for that to fall apart really does say to me, in the context of everything else going on, that there was really a deeper systemic problem," said Jha, who directs Harvard's Global Health Institute. "Whether changing leadership is going to fix it, I don't know ... but, of course, holding people to account is critically important."
The hospital replaced the heart transplant program's surgical director in October.