Benefits for Financial Donors to University of California-San Francisco Cardiology Department Draw Criticism
A program at the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center for people who donate at least $1,500 annually to the hospital's cardiology department has drawn criticism from some people who say that the program has created "a two-tier system of care" and is "inappropriate at a state-sponsored institution," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The program, called the Cardiology Council, provides donors with a 24-hour cardiology hotline for medical advice and referrals; house calls; the ability to schedule nonemergency appointments with "little or no lead time"; appointments at the less-crowded offices in department headquarters; a semiannual newsletter; and invitations to luncheons with clinicians and researchers, according to the Chronicle. The cardiology department is the only department at UCSF to offer such a program. About 210 people are members of the Cardiology Council.
Cardiology department Chair Dr. William Grossman said that the program provides funds to subsidize research and care for indigent patients. Grossman said that the services provided to Cardiology Council members do not restrict services available to patients who are not members. UCSF CEO Mark Laret said that providing "certain amenities to individuals in recognition of their support" to UCSF has helped the university to solicit donations for the cardiology department and added that the Cardiology Council provides "concierge-like" services that do not affect the quality of care. However, critics say that the program "violates a fundamental notion of fair dealing in medicine -- that the sickest patients, not the richest, should be getting the closest attention," the Chronicle reports. "The thing that's very disturbing here is that this is a state-run institution," Dr. William Andereck, a private practitioner in San Francisco and chair of a medical ethics committee at California Pacific Medical Center, said. He added, "There are only so many doctors and hospital beds to go around. If the resources of a powerful institution can be put at your disposal because you donate a certain amount of money, does that cost other people access?" (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.