Hospital Liver Transplant Program Suspended, Under Investigation
The Department of Health Services will investigate the liver program at St. Vincent Medical Center, one of the largest organ transplantation centers in the state, after hospital officials suspended the program upon discovering an improper transplant to a man who was 52nd on the regional transplant list, the Los Angeles Times reports. DHS spokesperson Lea Brooks on Monday announced the investigation.
Hospital officials informed DHS of the problem on Monday after discovering an improper transplant to a Saudi national that took place in September 2003, paid for by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. The embassy paid $339,000 for the transplant and hospital stay, which is 25% to 30% more than what insurance companies or government programs would have paid. Uninsured patients, including foreign nationals, pay higher rates than those covered by insurance companies, which have negotiated discounted rates.
Transplants could be delayed for 75 patients who are on St. Vincent's waiting list because of the program's suspension. The regional transplant list covers much of Southern California and is based on waiting times and severity of illness. The liver that the Saudi national received should have gone to a patient at the University of California-Los Angeles Medical Center.
UCLA spokesperson Roxanne Moster said the university had not been informed that one of its patients had been affected by the situation, that St. Vincent's transplant program had been suspended or that some St. Vincent patients might seek treatment at UCLA.
St. Vincent President and CEO Gus Valdespino said hospital staff members falsified documents several times to cover up the alleged improper transplant.
Richard Lopez, director of the liver transplant program, and Hector Ramos, assistant director of the program, are no longer affiliated with the program, according to hospital officials.
An attorney for Ramos denied any wrongdoing in the case (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 9/27).