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UK HealthCare releases pediatric heart surgery mortality rates

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - After criticism that it's hiding information about pediatric heart surgery mortality rates, UK HealthCare released information Friday showing its 5.8 percent mortality rate in recent years was slightly higher than comparable programs.

After putting the program on hold last fall and the Kentucky attorney general saying the rates fall under state open records laws, the hospital went to court in April to keep the rates private.

"We have been hesitant to release data as we do not want to compromise our approach to aggressive quality improvement or compromise patient privacy," said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president of health affairs, in a statement Friday about releasing the statistics which UK HealthCare had sought to keep private.

According to UK HealthCare, the mortality rates between 2008 and 2012 ranged from 4.5 percent to 7.1 percent. "These ranges are comparable to national mortality rates averaging 5.3 percent for programs of similar size to ours," said Dr. Karpf.

The spotlight on UK HealthCare and its program's mortality rates intensified this week after a CNN report on scrutiny over the program's former chief surgeon. Dr. Mark Plunkett has now taken a position with University of Florida Health.

In its coverage, CNN interviewed four families whose babies had surgeries with Plunkett at UK in 2012.

"Anytime a question is raised about a clinical program or a patient's care, we bring all involved parties together and review the situation and circumstances in a 'no holds barred' manner," said Dr. Karpf. "Sometimes we even choose to put a program 'on hold,' until we are certain that we are doing everything necessary to provide the highest level of care."

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