AP investigation uncovers substandard practices at ‘the Pope’s hospital’
July 03, 2017
A Vatican-run hospital for children in Rome provided substandard medical treatment for several years as administrators sought to generate profits, according to an investigative report by the Associated Press.
AP found that in 2014, an internal Vatican investigation into practices at the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital found that the institution was “today more aimed at profit than on caring for children.” The Vatican replaced the entire executive committee of the hospital, but the critical report was never made public, and a second investigation the following year gave Bambino Gesu a clean slate.
In 2014, AP reports, investigators found poor hygienic practices, improper sterilization of equipment, and rushed surgeries at Bambino Gesu. One American nurse who was part of the investigating team described conditions as “horrific.”
Some recommendations made after the 2014 investigation have been carried out, but other reforms still have not been completed, the AP story said—based on a review of hospital records, court reports, and union complaints. But a follow-up investigation, led by Sister Carol Keehan, the American former head of the Catholic Health Association, said that the earlier complaints were inaccurate.
Dr. Steven Masotti, who led the initial review, insisted that it was on target. “What we wrote in that report was the exact truth,” he told AP.
Originally a private hospital, Bambino Gesu was donated to the Vatican in 1924. It remains largely exempt from government oversight, although the Italian government reimburses the hospital for most of its services—including the 26,000 surgeries that account for about one-third of such procedures on children in Italy each year.
The Vatican undertook the 2014 review as part of an effort to exercise “due diligence” in oversight of the hospital’s medical and administrative standards. At roughly the same time the hospital was also under fire because a non-profit foundation associated with Bambino Gesu paid a reported €200,000 ($220,000) for renovations on the apartment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the former Vatican Secretary of State. Cardinal Bertone eventually made a €150,000 contribution to the foundation, denying wrongdoing and saying that he had been unaware the foundation had paid the renovation costs.
There is no evidence that the 2014 report on Bambino Gesu nor the follow-up effort has been shared with Italian medial authorities, AP reports. An official for the Italian health ministry told AP that his office would now investigate the Bambino Gesu reports.
- ‘Pope’s hospital’ put children at risk as it chased profits (AP)
- Vatican replaces board of hospital foundation following charges of improper spending (CWN, 11/4/15)
- Vatican investigating renovations of Cardinal Bertone's apartment (CWN, 3/31/16)