Improvements Ordered to Kaiser Transplant Hotline
The Department of Managed Health Care on Wednesday directed Kaiser Permanente to increase staffing "by whatever means necessary" for a hotline established to process calls from members in Northern California awaiting kidney transplants, the Los Angeles Times reports. DMHC's actions came after the Times found that callers had trouble getting through to the hotline and that some callers received inadequate information
Kaiser on Friday announced that it would close its kidney transplant program after a series of disclosures about problems at the program. When Kaiser announced the closure, the Oakland-based HMO said it would provide a "24/7" hotline to answer members' questions or concerns.
DMHC instructed Kaiser to provide better information to patients who call the hotline and ensure that an experienced clinician will be available to answer patients' questions within 48 hours of their call.
Kaiser officials on Wednesday said they were working to address the issues with the hotline.
In related news, Stephen Tomlanovich, medical director of the renal transplant program at the University of California-San Francisco, said that Kaiser officials at a meeting on Monday said they would call all Kaiser members awaiting transplants in Northern California to discuss the status of their cases (Ornstein/Weber, Los Angeles Times, 5/18).
Kaiser this week began making arrangements to transfer more than 2,000 members awaiting kidney transplants to programs at the University of California-Davis and UCSF. Before opening its own kidney transplant program in 2004, Kaiser contracted with UC-Davis and UCSF to perform Kaiser members' transplants (California Healthline, 5/17).
Kaiser spokesperson Rick Malaspina on Wednesday said that the HMO did not plan to call members awaiting transplants and that it would soon send letters to patients explaining how the process of transferring to another transplant program would work.
In addition, a spokesperson for the United Network for Organ Sharing -- the organization that administers the U.S. transplant system -- on Wednesday said that UNOS officials have had "very preliminary" discussions with Kaiser about transferring members to other transplant programs. Officials and physicians still are considering whether UC-Davis and UCSF will accept Kaiser members who previously received treatment at the UC facilities without first examining the members. Officials also are determining whether UC physicians will evaluate members who have been on only Kaiser's transplant waitlist before accepting them to the UC programs.
The UNOS spokesperson said a written agreement has not been reached (Los Angeles Times, 5/18).