Medical Board Launches Investigation of Improper Transplant at Hospital
The Medical Board of California on Tuesday said it has launched an investigation of the directors of the liver transplant program at St. Vincent Medical Center after a 2003 liver transplant to a patient who was 52nd on a regional transplant waiting list and staff efforts to falsify documents to conceal the transplant, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein/Lin, Los Angeles Times, 9/28).
Hospital officials informed the Department of Health Services of the problem on Monday, and the agency said it will investigate the matter.
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia paid $339,000 for the transplant to a Saudi national 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.
Hospital officials suspended the program upon discovering the improper transplant. 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 (California Healthline, 9/27).
Hospital President and CEO Gus Valdespino said the two physicians who ran the liver transplant program "have not provided us with a motivation" for performing the transplant.
Hospital officials are investigating whether any of the nine transplant patients on the waiting list at St. Vincent who were to receive an organ prior to the Saudi national were foreign nationals or whether they were hospitalized at the same time as the Saudi patient (Los Angeles Times, 9/28).
Several broadcast programs reported on the suspension and investigation of the liver program at St. Vincent:
- KPCC's "AirTalk": The segment includes comments from Brian Stuart, director of communication for OneLegacy, a not-for-profit federally designated organ procurement organization serving Los Angeles, and Valdespino (Mantle, "AirTalk," KPCC, 9/27). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPCC's "KPCC News": The segment includes comments from Valdespino (Julian, "KPCC News," KPCC, 9/27). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Los Angeles Times reporter Charles Ornstein (Norris, "All Things Considered," NPR, 9/27). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.