Touro Infirmary advertises itself as the place "where babies come from," and indeed, more babies are born at the Uptown hospital than any other site in the New Orleans area.
But Touro is also the most dangerous area hospital when it comes to the likelihood that a mother will suffer potentially life-threatening complications during birth, according to a report published Thursday by USA Today.
The newspaper analyzed data from over 7 million births across 13 states. It identified 120 "outlier" hospitals in those states where the median rate of serious complications was at least twice as high as the national median of 1.4 percent.
About one in eight of the hospitals the newspaper examined — including Touro — exceeded that threshold. USA Today's report led with the story of Felicia West, a New Orleans woman who died of a stroke a week after giving birth at Touro in 2012.
About 2.8 percent of mothers who gave birth at the Uptown hospital suffered serious complications, according to USA Today — double the national median, but lower than most of the other 119 outlier hospitals the newspaper flagged as problematic.
Touro's rate of complications was not the highest in Louisiana. In fact, it was ninth among the 45 hospitals around the state where babies are born. Our Lady of the Angels in Bogalusa had by far the highest rate of maternal complications in Louisiana, at 6.1 percent.
But Touro has the busiest maternity ward, by a wide margin, of any Louisiana hospital with such a high rate of complications. Roughly 25 babies were born at Touro for each baby born at Our Lady of the Angels during the four-year period the newspaper examined.
USA Today highlighted Touro in part because its rates of complications were much higher than every other hospital that deliver babies in the metro New Orleans area.
"Seven hospitals deliver all the (city of New Orleans') babies. Of them, Touro’s maternity patients were far more likely to face serious complications," the report said.
Touro sent USA Today a statement saying the hospital serves a “medically vulnerable” population that may be more prone to complications.
“Lifestyle diseases, the high cost of healthcare, delaying or non-compliance with medical treatment, limited care coordination, poor health, high rates of poverty and high rates of morbidity are all realities of our state and community,” it said.
But USA Today's analysis strongly suggested that the high complication rates at Touro are a result of the quality of care, as opposed to other factors such as the demographics of Touro's patients.
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For instance, the rates of complications for white and black mothers differ dramatically at Touro, as they do nationally. But the rates of complications for both white and black mothers are much higher at Touro than at other area hospitals, the newspaper found.
USA Today's analysis found white mothers giving birth at Touro had three times the rate of complications as white women at other area hospitals, while for black women the rate of complications at Touro was more than twice as high as at other area hospitals.
Touro's statement to USA Today said the newspaper's data analysis was “unsound" but offered no specifics.
While the analysis was mostly based on data gathered through public records, the paper did raise questions about the care received by Felicia West in particular and other patients more broadly.
The story noted that Touro has a training program in obstetrics and gynecology that is overseen by LSU’s Health Sciences Center, and four recent lawsuits have alleged that doctors in training there made crucial mistakes.
It also said that nearly half of the 120 hospitals with high rates of birth complications host such training programs, and that about one in six have had accreditation issues.
Touro is among them: The newspaper reported that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education had placed Touro on “warning” status from February 2018 through February 2019, and on probationary status from 2005 through 2007.
The latter designation is more serious, according to the council, which is private and does not make the reasons for its determinations public.
Leslie Capo, a spokeswoman for LSU, told USA Today that there was no connection between patient care and the accreditation issues the newspaper pointed out.
Capo sent The Advocate a detailed fact sheet about LSU's ob-gyn residency program. It said that LSU and Touro have worked diligently to improve their ability to predict and respond to obstetric hemorrhages and hypertension, two of the greatest postpartum risks for new mothers.
For instance, doctors came up with a new "risk assessment tool" to identify patients most likely to suffer hemorrhages, the document said, and other measures reduced response times. A new protocol for measuring blood loss was implemented.
Because of those and other measures, unexpected obstetric hemorrhages have decreased over the past two years, LSU said.
Asked for comment on USA Today’s findings, Touro sent The Advocate a statement that did not address them directly.
“As a leader in women’s health, we believe that Touro and its providers are part of the solution to ensuring the best possible outcomes for mothers and babies across the Greater New Orleans area,” the statement said. “In our community and across the nation this is a pressing issue; we are committed to being part of the solution."
It added: “Touro is committed to excellence in providing patients with a safe and healing environment. As one of the largest birthing hospitals in Louisiana, providing the highest quality care to our maternal-child population is a top priority for our organization.”
Advocate staff writer Gordon Russell contributed to this report.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article included an interactive graphic with incorrect headings and has since been updated.