Patient noted as dead in federal report about MD Anderson is still alive, officials say

HOUSTON – One of two patients who were noted in a federal inspection report about the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center as having died is still alive, according to hospital officials.

The inspection by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was conducted in August after the December 2018 death of a 23-year-old female leukemia patient following a contaminated blood transfusion.

Here is a closer look at the report and what hospital officials have said about it. The full report can be found here.

What do we know about the investigation?

The 268-page report details interviews that were held with nurses, physicians and other hospital staff in connection with the cases of several patients. The inspection was conducted between Aug. 12 and Aug. 23.

It covered the topics of patient rights, infection control and surgical services. 

What did the investigation uncover?

Among the findings detailed in the report:

  • A 54-year-old brain cancer patient died after having a bad reaction to an overdose of anesthetics. 
  • A chemotherapy patient who was admitted in July died Aug. 16, 2019, after becoming unresponsive.
  • A 3-year-old, undergoing cancer treatment, was given anesthesia seven times within a two-week period without proper consent.
  • A 2-year-old was given anesthesia 16 times without proper consent. 

Issues uncovered and mentioned in the report include:

  • Bad employee training
  • Poor record-keeping
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Malfunctioning medical equipment
  • Failing to properly clean lead aprons used to protect patients from radiation hazards
  • Failure to properly clean up spills of chemotherapy drugs

What did MD Anderson officials say about the report?

MD Anderson released the following statement:

"For nearly 80 years, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has been a global leader in the fight to end cancer. Our patients trust us with their care, and we continually strive to exceed their expectations and to improve outcomes.

"As part of an ongoing assessment by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Texas Department of State Health Services, a follow-up visit of MD Anderson was conducted at the end of August. MD Anderson cooperated fully and responded to the final CMS report with an improvement plan, which was accepted without changes by CMS.

"A survey to validate MD Anderson’s approved improvement plan was conducted by CMS during the week of Oct. 28. Several steps remain, but CMS surveyors verbally shared with MD Anderson leadership that the institution has cleared all condition-level findings from the August hospital survey and its deemed status will be reinstated.

"It is important to note there have been no changes to MD Anderson’s participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs. Patient coverage remains the same as it was prior to the assessment. 

"As an institution focused on learning, we take this feedback seriously, and we welcome the opportunity to further improve our patient care and safety protocols. Through intentional, strategic and patient-focused decisions, we have implemented changes into our clinical practice. MD Anderson constantly strives for the best during regular reviews conducted by more than 70 regulatory, professional and accrediting bodies.

"We are proud of MD Anderson’s 21,000 faculty and staff who remain steadfast in our commitment to providing patients and their loved ones the safest and highest-quality cancer care. It is our duty and honor to do so as we work to fulfill our mission to end cancer."

One of the patients reported as dead is still alive

On Nov. 12, a week after the federal inspection came to light, officials at MD Anderson said that one of the two patients who were noted as having died in the federal report is still alive.

MD Anderson officials issued the following written statement about the revelation:

“MD Anderson identified an error in documents shared with CMS that outlined that a patient death had occurred. Following an additional internal review, MD Anderson confirmed that the patient did not die and is still receiving care. MD Anderson is communicating with CMS accordingly.”

Hospital officials would not say which of the two patients were still alive.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information from MD Anderson regarding the condition of a patient noted in the report. A previous version of this story omitted information about the second death noted report.

About the Authors:

Award-winning journalist, adventure seeker, explorer, dog lover.

Aaron Barker has been a senior digital editor at KPRC 2 since 2016. As a meteorologist, he specializes in stories about the weather. He has covered Hurricane Harvey, the Astros first World Series win, the Santa Fe High School shooting, the ITC fire and Tropical Storm Imelda.