Organ Transplant Group Imposes Sanction on Los Angeles Hospital
The United Network for Organ Sharing on Thursday designated St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles as a "member not in good standing" after the hospital admitted to improperly performing a liver transplant, the Los Angeles Times reports. It is the first time UNOS has publicly sanctioned one of its members (Ornstein/Weber, Los Angeles Times, 3/3).
Hospital officials suspended the liver transplant program in September 2005 upon discovering the case, in which a patient who was 52nd on a regional transplant waiting list received an organ ahead of others. The transplant occurred in 2003.
The federal government on Sept. 30, 2005, withdrew the hospital's certification for the program, making it ineligible for Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, and the program closed in November (California Healthline, 11/4).
UNOS will require the hospital to send letters that detail the disciplinary action to about 4,000 patients who are awaiting transplants or receiving care. In addition, no hospital officials will be allowed to serve on UNOS' board or committees, and they will not be able to vote within the organization.
The hospital will remain designated as a member not in good standing until it can show evidence of new safeguards that will prevent such incidents in the future.
The sanction does not prevent the hospital from performing other organ transplants, adding patients to waiting lists or providing follow-up care. The disciplinary action also is not expected to force the closure of other transplant programs or a withdrawal of federal Medicare funding for those programs.
In a statement, St. Vincent officials said they would challenge the sanction, adding, "We have been proactive in developing and implementing a comprehensive corrective action plan to ensure that the problems that occurred in the liver program cannot occur in the hospital's other transplant programs" (Los Angeles Times, 3/3).
The University of California, Irvine Medical Center could face a similar designation from UNOS after problems were discovered in its liver transplant program. Friday is the deadline for UCI officials to appeal a sanction of the transplant center, but a UCI spokesperson said on Thursday that no appeal was planned.
Sanctions would impose unscheduled visits by regulators and other conditions (Bernhard, Orange County Register, 3/3).