UCIMC CEO Misled Regulators About Transplant Program’s Staffing Problems
The CEO of the University of California-Irvine Medical Center last year misled federal regulators into believing that he was recruiting a full-time surgeon for the hospital's liver transplant program to shore up staffing shortages, according to a report by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the Los Angeles Times reports. The liver transplant program closed last month after losing federal certification.
The United Network of Organ Sharing launched an investigation of the program in 2002 because post-transplant survival rates were too low. The Times reports that "[p]art of the problem was a lack of surgeons." Regulators proposed closing the program in 2004.
According to a letter sent on Monday by HRSA to Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is investigating problems with the national transplant system, federal regulators who attended a meeting last year to address problems with the transplant program "left with the clear impression" that a surgeon would be "moving full time to UCI."
In addition, UCIMC CEO Ralph Cygan provided regulators with "written assurance" that the hospital had recruited a full-time surgeon to oversee the program, the Times reports.
However, the new surgeon was based 90 miles away at the University of California-San Diego and planned to perform transplants at UCI on a part-time basis.
Hospitals that perform transplants are required by UNOS to be able to provide medical and surgical coverage to patients 24 hours a day.
Grassley said in a statement that the false information provided by UCIMC, as well as the alleged fraud in the liver transplant program at St. Vincent Medical Center, suggest that "it's time to stop relying on information from troubled transplant centers" (Zarembo/Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 12/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.