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UCI Vows to Review Refused Kidneys

O.C. hospital's pledge follows criticism that it rejected organs that may have helped patients.

January 28, 2006|Charles Ornstein and Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writers

UCI Medical Center has pledged to scrutinize every kidney turned down for patients on its transplant waiting list, following criticism that the hospital rejected an inordinate number of organs that might have saved some patients.

The UC Irvine hospital in Orange will provide a written explanation for every organ refusal, and those decisions will be reviewed by top officials, including the university chancellor, according to a formal response to government inspectors released Friday. UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake is a physician.

The medical center may also send some cases to outside experts to determine whether the refusals were proper.

Meanwhile, in response to a separate issue at the medical center, a University of California spokeswoman in Oakland said Friday that UCI would investigate whether the son of a donor to the radiology department received preferential treatment when he was given a newly created residency slot in radiology.

The Times reported Thursday that Alfred K. Sein was given the training slot the same month his father, Dr. Michael Sein, who volunteers in UCI's mammography unit, pledged $250,000 to the department.

Michael Sein and Dr. Fong Tsai, chairman of the radiology department, denied that the residency was granted in exchange for the donation.

UC policy prohibits admissions decisions from being influenced by financial considerations, but it is not clear if that policy would apply to a residency.

"We're concerned about the story and we're working with the campus to gather additional information," UC spokeswoman Jennifer Ward said. She added that a three-member panel of associate medical school deans was being appointed by Dr. Thomas C. Cesario, dean of UCI's medical school.

Cesario approved the creation of the position and the selection of Sein, according to radiology chief Tsai.

Ward was unable to explain why Cesario was chosen to appoint the panel.

UCI has faced a series of scandals of late, including separate disclosures of failings in its liver, kidney and bone marrow transplant programs.

UCI shut down its liver program in November after The Times reported that more than 30 patients died on its waiting list in 2004 and 2005, even as the hospital turned down scores of organs that might have saved some of them.

This week, the newspaper reported that UCI accepted only 8.7% of the kidneys offered on behalf of its patients from July 2000 to June 2005, one of the lowest rates in the nation. Many of the patients on UCI's waiting list would have had a far greater chance of receiving a transplant had they gone to other hospitals, data showed.

Drake said this week that he believed the kidney transplant program was finally on track after hiring a new director, Dr. Clarence Foster, in July.

Data submitted by UCI to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed that the hospital accepted more than two-thirds of the kidneys offered between July and October.

In the same document, released Friday, UCI said it had been told by federal regulators not to rely on two doctors at UC San Diego to perform kidney transplants, even as backups. The hospital had relied on the two UCSD doctors for more than a year while it was searching for full-time transplant surgeons.

The hospital's response, dated Dec. 9, was released by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

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