The closing of the cardiac unit at the Veterans Administration hospital in Oklahoma City could result in the shutdown of the University of Oklahoma's heart surgery training program, officials say.
Concern for the future of the training program is the result of a proposal to close one-third of the 55 cardiac units nationwide because death rates are higher at units where fewer surgeries are performed.
Ron Elkins, chief of the Oklahoma City hospital's cardiac surgery unit, is on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma Medical School.
Elkins said without the VA patients, the team will not have enough patients of differing ages and conditions to remain accredited as a cardiac training program.
Elkins' three-member team also performs surgeries at Oklahoma Memorial and Children's Memorial hospitals.
During a debate earlier this week by a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee, it was said that the Oklahoma City VA hospital had a heart patient death rate more than twice the national average.
However, officials of the hospital said Wednesday the claims about the hospital's death rate are unfair.
Veterans Administration officials in Washington said 38 patients were operated on at the Oklahoma City hospital from Oct. 1, 1985, to March 30, 1986. Four died, giving the hospital a 10.5 percent death rate.
A VA spokesman said that during the first six months of this year, 70 patients were operated on and three died for a 4.3 percent rate.
""That's why we didn't want the congressmen to release the figures,'' said VA spokeswoman Donna St. John. ""They can be misleading.''
Marc Smolonsky, researcher for the House subcommittee which looked into VA hospital closings, said figures given to the subcommittee by the VA showed the death rates at the Oklahoma City hospital to be 6 percent in fiscal year 1985, 4 percent in 1984, 7 percent in 1983; 12 percent in 1982 and 10 percent in 1981. …