UCIMC Liver Transplant Program Loses Federal Funding, Closes
The University of California-Irvine Medical Center on Thursday closed its liver transplant program after losing federal certification, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein/Zarembo, Los Angeles Times, 11/11).
According to an Aug. 5 CMS report, more than 30 patients at the UCIMC died awaiting liver transplants after the hospital turned down organ donations because of staffing shortages.
The report, which recently was obtained by the Times, found that UCIMC received 122 liver offers between August 2004 and July 2005, but only 12 were transplanted, including two livers to the same patient because the first one failed. The report found that, for the past three years, the hospital has not met federal requirements that at least 12 transplants be performed annually or federal requirements for transplant survival rates (California Healthline, 11/10).
UCIMC has not had a full-time transplant surgeon for more than a year. Part-time surgeons - based at UC-San Diego, which is 90 miles away from UCIMC - have been performing the transplants, according to the Times.
Federal funding will stop immediately and the decision is not subject to appeal, although the hospital can apply for new certification if it meets minimal standards for operation.
Herb Kuhn, director of the Center for Medicare Management, acknowledged that the agency's oversight was "not as aggressive or as assertive as we'd like it to be," but he added that a new system is being developed to improve oversight of transplant centers (Los Angeles Times, 11/11).
UCIMC CEO Ralph Cygan said the loss of federal funding prompted the decision to close the program. Medicare pays for "a significant number" of transplants at the hospital, the Orange County Register reports (Bernhard, Orange County Register, 11/11).
In a statement released Thursday, Cygan said the hospital was disappointed by CMS' decision, but he added that "we will voluntarily inactivate our liver transplant program effective immediately and will ensure our patients are assigned to other transplant programs for continuation of care" (Fresno Bee, 11/11).
Cygan said the 106 patients on the hospital's waiting list for a liver transplant will be transferred to one of the five other liver transplant centers in the area. Patients on waiting lists at those hospitals likely will not be significantly affected since transplants are performed based on a patient's health and not the amount of time they spend waiting (Los Angeles Times, 11/11).
The closure of the liver transplant program will not affect the hospital's kidney and pancreas transplant programs (Orange County Register, 11/11).
The Times on Friday also examined other problems UCIMC has faced over the past decade, including three situations that resulted in investigations that called for "stronger administrative controls" over the hospital's health programs. According to the Times, enrollment and funding at the institution "continue to grow at record-setting paces," despite the problems (Yoshino/Lobdell, Los Angeles Times, 11/11).
KPCC's "AirTalk" on Thursday included an interview with Tom Mone, CEO of the organ procurement agency OneLegacy, about the report (Mantle, "AirTalk," KPCC, 11/10). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. In addition, KPCC's "KPCC News" on Thursday included an interview with Mone about the report (Julian, "KPCC News," KPCC, 11/10). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.