Federal Report Says Problems Persist at Transplant Programs
A forthcoming report by the Government Accountability Office finds continuing issues with organ transplant centers nationwide, despite efforts by CMS to increase regulation after serious lapses at three California organ transplant programs in 2005 and 2006, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The report found that of the 72 programs identified in 2005 as having low survival rates, about 40% still were not meeting basic survival standards by August 2007.
CMS also has yet to develop policies to ensure that the subpar programs will meet minimum standards or to share information on poorly performing programs, the report said.
The GAO report also found that CMS went a decade without inspecting some programs and that others had not been reviewed in more than 20 years.
In 2005, St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles stopped performing liver transplants after conceding that its physicians had improperly given a kidney to a Saudi national ahead of other people on the transplant waiting list.
UCI Medical Center in Orange also closed its liver transplant program in 2005 after the Times reported that it did not have a full-time transplant surgeon and that the center had been turning down an inordinately high number of organs.
In addition, in May 2006, Kaiser Permanente closed its kidney transplant center in San Francisco after the Times found that it delayed some surgeries, lost track of patients and endangered hundreds of others.
Medicare officials said they were adopting new rules at an "unprecedented" speed, training new inspectors and beginning reviews of the programs.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) -- ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, who requested the GAO investigation -- said he was pleased with the reforms but added that ongoing scrutiny would be needed to ensure the quality of transplant programs does not lapse (Ornstein/Weber, Los Angeles Times, 5/19).