Listen: What went wrong at John Muir Health?

The deaths of pediatric patients, including two-year-old Ailee Jong, at John Muir Health are raising questions. Chronicle reporters Matthias Gafni and Cynthia Dizikes discuss their investigation.

The hands of Truc-Co and Tom Jong hold a photo of their two-year-old daughter Ailee while standing for a portrait near their home in Danville, Calif. on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. Two years ago, Ailee was diagnosed with cancer and would need surgery. While she was expected to survive she died on the operating table at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. Both Truc-Co and Tom later discovered a doctor had been warning supervisors that the hospital was nowhere close to prepared to perform the surgery. Now, critics of the hospital are saying the surgery was done to push their new children’s specialty center despite senior nurses and anesthesiologists pulling themselves out of the surgery expressing concerns.
Brontë Wittpenn/The Chronicle
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On the morning of Nov. 12, 2019, a Danville couple brought their 2-year-old daughter, Ailee, to the hospital to treat her stage 4 cancer. They were nervous about the risky and complicated operation known as a liver resection, despite assurance from one of the doctors that “I can do this with my eyes closed.”

Ailee died on the operating table later that day.

A Chronicle investigation discovered that in the weeks before the surgery, John Muir Health leaders ignored stark warnings from its own staff that the hospital was not equipped to execute Ailee’s specialized liver procedure.

On this episode of Fifth & Mission, Chronicle reporters Matthias Gafni and Cynthia Dizikes join host Cecilia Lei to discuss their exhaustive reporting on the care provided to Ailee Jong, and whether the hospital’s decision to undertake the surgery put profit and prestige ahead of patient safety. You will also hear from Ailee’s parents, Tom and Truc-Co, and Dr. Alicia Kalamas, the former medical director who said she warned hospital leaders about the surgery.