A Vatican official confirmed yesterday that Bambino Gesu hospital has had past problems that the Vatican has worked to resolve.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, said at a Vatican press conference July 4 that a recently-released report on the hospital from the Associated Press contained some things that were “clearly unfounded” but also highlighted valid issues that the hospital has had in the past.
The AP report, which examined the hospital’s operations under its previous 2008-2015 administration, found among other things that the Vatican-owned hospital had shifted its focus from its patients to profits and had some subpar standards of care.
“For what regards the problems that were found, there was serious attention and effort to resolve them,” Cardinal Parolin said.
In 2014, the Vatican conducted its own report on the hospital after fielding several complaints, and found many of the same things, including a focus on profits and breaches in accepted medical protocols including the reuse of disposable equipment, early awakening from surgery and risk of infection due to overcrowding.
After the report, a widespread overhaul of the hospital staff and administration was conducted, and a 2015 report found that many of the previous issues had been resolved.
The Hospital Bambino Gesù was founded in Rome in 1869 as the first pediatric hospital in Italy. In 1924 it was donated to the Holy See and became the “Pope’s Hospital”. While it receives funding from the Italian government, it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Italian government’s health authorities.
Bambino Gesu fell under scrutiny again in 2016, when the Vatican reported that it was investigating whether former hospital president Giuseppe Profiti had allocated some $200,000 of hospital funds to refurbish the apartment where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone lives.
In September 2016, Pope Francis warned the hospital’s new president and administration not to fall into corruption, which he called “the worst cancer” a hospital could have.
At the press conference yesterday, Cardinal Parolin and current hospital president Mariella Enoc also presented the hospital’s annual report for 2016.
Among other things, the report highlighted that the hospital had an increase of organ transplants and research projects that have identified 10 new “rare” diseases.
The Hospital Bambino Gesù is the only European pediatric hospital where all types of transplants are performed. In 2016, 339 organ and tissue transplants were performed, a four percent increase from the previous year.
In addition, 242 research projects and 423 clinical trials involving 5,300 patients were undertaken in the past year. In all, 750 physicians, biologists and other health professionals have been involved in hospital-driven scientific research projects. Bambino Gesù also reported a reduction in hospital infections from 7.6 percent in 2006 to 1.8 percent in 2016, or 76 percent less in 10 years.
Enoc said that while the problems in the AP report occurred before she was in charge, she urged anyone at the hospital who had issues in the future to come forward.
“I can say that the climate today is more serene, and I urge everyone when there is a problem … that we talk and talk and not keep it inside and then have it explode,” she said.