ROME (AP) — The Latest on the AP investigation into the Vatican children's hospital (all times local):
The Vatican's children's hospital is calling an Associated Press investigation into quality of care problems a "hoax."
In a statement Monday, the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital again threatened legal action against the AP for what it said was a report containing "false, dated and gravely defamatory" accusations that it said had been disproven by a Vatican probe.
AP uncovered two previously unknown Vatican investigations into the hospital: One three-month probe in 2014 interviewed dozens of current and former employees, gathered hospital documentation and concluded that the hospital's mission had been lost under its past administration and was "today more aimed at profit than on caring for children."
The hospital cited a second Vatican-commissioned report by a team of Americans who spent three days at the hospital in 2015, "disproved" the first report and declared Bambino Gesu in many ways "best in class."
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard University's Global Health Institute, says the number of problems identified at the Vatican's children's hospital by The Associated Press is "very unusual" and suggests the institution needs a complete overhaul.
Jha said the diverse issues highlighted by the AP — including bringing children out of anesthesia early and a superbug outbreak that killed eight children in the cancer ward — would likely be addressed much quicker if they arose in the U.S.
He says "I would not expect to see this in a good American hospital, let alone a premier children's hospital."
Jha wasn't sure the Vatican could address such problems itself and called for an independent oversight body. He says "the Vatican is not in the business of running large numbers of hospitals."
The Vatican is denying there are any "serious threats" to the health of children at its Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital. But it says it welcomes efforts to improve care, "including reports of practices that might be below standard."
Spokesman Greg Burke responded Monday to an Associated Press investigation that revealed the Vatican itself investigated the hospital in 2014 after staff complained that medical protocols were being ignored and shortcuts taken under its past administration.
The three-month Vatican inquiry found the mission of "the pope's hospital" had been lost and was "today more aimed at profit than on caring for children."
Burke noted that a subsequent three-day visit by an American team determined the problems reported by the first Vatican task force were "unfounded" and said the hospital provided an "exceptional level of care" except for space shortages.
Burke said: "No hospital is perfect, but it is false and unjust to suggest that there are serious threats to the health of children at Bambino Gesu."
A prominent medical ethicist says that the allegations of poor practice at the Vatican's children's hospital, as detailed in an Associated Press investigation, are "unconscionable" if true.
Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine, said it appeared that the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital was an institution with "a very high reputation but somehow may have become complacent."
He said that the reports of problems including medications being used beyond the recommended time limit and children being brought out of anesthesia prematurely were extremely worrying.
Caplan told the AP that "these are inexcusable violations of children's rights."
He also said that "these allegations are so serious that we need to have an independent audit by child health care experts not connected in any way to either the Vatican or even Italy."
The Vatican press office isn't commenting on an Associated Press investigation that found that children were put at risk as the Vatican's pediatric hospital chased profits under a past administration.
The AP reported Monday that the Vatican authorized a secret inquiry in early 2014 that gathered testimony from dozens of current and former staff members of the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital.
The Vatican investigation confirmed that the mission of "the pope's hospital" had been lost and was "today more aimed at profit than on caring for children." Doctors and nurses at the Vatican hospital were angry that corners were being cut, safety protocols were being ignored and sick children were suffering.
The Vatican didn't immediately comment Monday, though it previously provided AP with a second Vatican-commissioned report that found the employees' allegations were "disproved."
An Associated Press investigation finds the Vatican once authorized an inquiry of its showcase children's hospital that revealed its mission was "more aimed at profit than on caring for children."
For several weeks in early 2014, a secret Vatican-authorized task force of doctors and nurses from Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital found breaches of standard medical practice, heightened infection risk and management problems. Nine months later, a second Vatican investigation — led by a trio of American health professionals — inspected the hospital for three days and "disproved" the earlier findings, concluding the hospital was "best in class."
Though the inquiries reached different conclusions, the AP found under Bambino Gesu's past administration, children sometimes paid the price as the hospital expanded services and tried to make a money-losing Vatican enterprise profitable.