UK, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital finalize deal for pediatric heart surgery

University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.
University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

UK HealthCare and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have finalized an agreement that will bring some pediatric heart surgeries back to the University of Kentucky after a nearly four-year absence.

A letter of intent between the two hospitals was signed in September which outlined a proposal to hire a heart surgeon who will have a primary appointment at Cincinnati Children’s but be based at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital in Lexington.

UK suspended its pediatric cardiac surgery program in 2012 after an uptick in mortality rates. The program’s chief surgeon, Mark Plunkett, left UK in 2013 with a $1 million settlement. An internal review of the program never identified specific problems, but it said better support and nursing care would be needed for complex surgeries.

A news release issued Wednesday said the first surgical procedure at UK under the new agreement will likely take place in late 2016 or early 2017.

UK HealthCare also is working toward having cardiac subspecialists perform diagnostic and therapeutic interventions at Kentucky Children's Hospital with the support of Cincinnati Children’s subspecialists when necessary.

“By partnering with Cincinnati Children’s we will be teaming up with one of the top children’s hospitals in the country and a Top 10 pediatric heart care program,” said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs. “Our goal is to keep patient care close to home when clinically appropriate with patients traveling to Cincinnati for the most complex surgical procedures but eventually having some surgical procedures, as well as post-surgical care and pediatric cardiology subspecialty care, available in Lexington.”

The program director also will be based in Lexington and be a liaison for both sites. The director will be employed by UK HealthCare, report to UK HealthCare’s chief medical officer and have reporting responsibilities to the leadership team of Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute.

Doctors, nurses and support staff in the program will get intensive training in Cincinnati, UK officials said.