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All Children’s CEO discusses local impact, ‘Maya’ and more

Mark Parker

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K. Alicia Schulhof (second from left), CEO of Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, with Florida Economic co-founders Jerry Bohannon (left), Ken Walters (second from right) and board member Jenny Tsantilas. Photo by Mark Parker.

K. Alicia Schulhof promised a room full of local business leaders that she would address the “elephant in the room” after discussing another pediatric patient named Maya.

Schulhof, CEO of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (JHACH), was the Florida Economic Club’s featured guest at Wednesday night’s Community Leader Social. She noted that several attendees asked about the so-called Take Care of Maya civil trial before her presentation.

“I’ll get to the other Maya, who you might have heard about recently, but this Maya is a patient of ours who received care in the Heart Institute,” Schulhof said. “She came to us when she was 7 years old because she needed her second heart transplant.”

The decidedly less-famous Maya received a new heart, fully recovered from the procedure and created lasting bonds with JHACH staff. Schulhof said the child’s story embodies the 259-bed, St. Petersburg-based institution’s work.

Opened in 1926, JHACH was named Florida’s “Best Children’s Hospital” by U.S. News and World Report and placed in the top 50 nationally across seven specialties. However, the rankings coincided with the debut of Take Care of Maya, a Netflix documentary released in June 2023.

Subscribers streamed the documentary nearly 14 million times in two weeks. JHACH was at the center of a complicated and tragic story surrounding then-9-year-old Maya Kowalski’s mysterious diagnosis, controversial treatments, child abuse reporting procedures and her mother’s subsequent suicide.

A fiercely contested eight-week civil trial began in November 2023. Jurors awarded the Kowalski family $261 million for false imprisonment, battery and intentionally inflicting severe emotional distress.

Judge Hunter Carroll agreed with JHACH’s motion that some of the jury’s awards were excessive, in an order released Tuesday. He decreased the damages by $47.5 million.

Carroll also dismissed the hospital’s requests for a new trial. The matter will now head to an appellate court.

“What I want you to know is how proud I am – and, I hope, how proud you all can be – for having providers that stand up for the most vulnerable kids,” Schulhof said. “They have a duty and a responsibility, and, frankly, their license is on the line if they don’t report suspected child abuse and neglect.

“They followed the law, and they did the right thing …”

Sea Salt St. Pete hosted the Community Leader Social Wednesday night. Photo by Mark Parker.

Schulhof pledged that JHACH’s caregivers would continue upholding the law and their responsibility to the most vulnerable patients. She also encouraged attendees to discuss concerns with her and the hospital’s team.

Advocacy is a critical component of All Children’s work, and was a deciding factor for Schulhof entering the healthcare industry.

Provided statistics highlighted the local need. Nearly 16 of every 1,000 Black infants die in Pinellas County. JHACH is Healthy Start’s services organizer and works to mitigate racial disparities and improve health outcomes for children from birth.

Half of all local school-aged children are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The document adds that one out of six live in food-insecure homes, and the hospital participates in the Summer BreakSpot program to help fill meal gaps.

Schulhof noted that around 70% of JHACH patients rely on Medicaid. “We get paid, on average, about 70 cents on every dollar,” she added. “So, you can see how that shortfall adds up quickly.”

She said the hospital serves 1.2 million children throughout the region. That number will increase as JHACH recently acquired 114 acres of property near I-75 in Pasco County for $21 million.

The new facility will provide the same specialized pediatric care found at the St. Petersburg headquarters. “We’re making access to healthcare easy – or easier – because healthcare is inherently difficult.”

The documents state that JHACH generates a $1 billion statewide economic output. It also provides over 6,000 jobs, $1.4 million in financial assistance and $47 million to local vendors and contractors.

John’s Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is one of the St. Petersburg Innovation District’s anchor institutions. Photo provided.

JHACH physicians have trained USF Health’s Morsani College of Medicine pediatric residents for over 50 years. The hospital in St. Petersburg’s Innovation District also provides 15 state-of-the-art educational simulation rooms.

USF St. Petersburg’s nursing program operates from an aging Port St. Pete building. City and Innovation District officials are determining that facility’s future, including demolition and redevelopment.

Schulhof said she, Regional Chancellor Christian Hardigree and other stakeholders continue exploring additional partnerships. Schulhof added that she would “absolutely be interested in a conversation” regarding housing the nursing program at JHACH.

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Robin Miller

    January 20, 2024at12:32 am

    JHACH still doesn’t get it. No means no! Lick your wounds and pay the Kowalski’s. You owe them that for mistreating the family until Beata unalived herself, much as a mother would throw herself in front of a vehicle to keep her child from being injured or killed. Your risk managers, your social workers, and your child abuse expert who thought she was God, are all responsible for the maltreatment of Maya and her family.

  2. Avatar

    John Donovan

    January 18, 2024at4:40 pm

    If God was jury, I’d bet my life on “munchausen by proxy” was the initial problem created here. I don’t believe that was issue at trial however. In any case the jury award is beyond ridiculous even if all allegations true and including punitive damages. Effectively wrecks any practical hospital or any business economics. No hospital can exist under this amount of risk. IOW – total collapse, everywhere. Everyone knows this.

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