After ‘tragedies’ at All Children’s, St. Mary’s, Florida lawmakers back safety measure

Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said issues at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital made people realize the bill’s importance.
Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, San Petersburg.
Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, San Petersburg.
Published Feb. 13, 2020|Updated Feb. 13, 2020

TALLAHASSEE — A bill that would require hospitals to conduct anonymous employee surveys about patient safety is gaining traction in the Florida Legislature.

The House has approved similar proposals in the past, but the Senate has historically been cool to the idea.

This year, however, the bill has a powerful ally in Sen. Gayle Harrell. It passed out of the Senate Health Policy Committee this week with a unanimous vote.

What changed?

Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, on Wednesday said recent “tragedies” at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg and St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach “have really made people realize the importance of the bill and how it can help people and save lives.”

In both instances, he said, “kids were killed and it could have been avoided had mid-level management communicated to upper management.”

The situation at All Children’s came to light in 2018 when a Tampa Bay Times investigation found that safety problems in the pediatric heart surgery unit had led to an increase in deaths and complications.

The Times also found that hospital administrators had disregarded safety concerns the program’s staff had raised as early as 2015.

Related: Heartbroken: A Tampa Bay Times investigation

After the investigation published, the hospital’s then-CEO stepped down and Johns Hopkins made sweeping changes to All Children’s, including new safety protocols and checks on hospital leadership.

The measure under consideration in Tallahassee (SB 1370/HB 763) would require hospitals to survey employees on how well they work together, how information is communicated during shift changes and whether they feel they can bring patient safety concerns to their supervisors and hospital leaders, among other things.

The results of the biennial surveys would be made public.

“If we were asking clinical staff on a regular basis, ‘How do you feel about the quality of care at this hospital?’ and it’s going to be public, God knows the CEO of that hospital is going to make sure they put eyeballs on that data and that could save somebody’s life,” Sprowls said.

He added that All Children’s has been “very supportive of the bill.”