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Hospital rejected kidneys despite waiting list

/ Source: The Associated Press

The University of California, Irvine Medical Center, which was forced to close its liver transplant program, turned down a high number of donated kidneys despite a long patient waiting list, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The hospital’s kidney transplant program accepted just 8.7 percent of the organs offered for its patients between July 2000 and June 2005, the newspaper reported.

Nationwide, the median annual acceptance rate during that time ranged from 25.9 percent to 31.2 percent, it said.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notified UCI that it had uncovered problems with the kidney program and gave the hospital 14 days to produce a correction plan.

UCI Chancellor Michael Drake, who took office in July, told the Times that the program has struggled in the past but he is confident it turned a corner with the hiring of a new kidney transplant director last summer.

The Times based its report on an analysis of data from The United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the national transplant system.

The data included only kidneys that were eventually transplanted into patients at UCI or other hospitals, suggesting that other facilities found acceptable the organs that UCI rejected.

Some 35 patients died awaiting kidneys at UCI during the five years reviewed, but it’s unclear how many organs were offered for these people or whether transplants would have saved their lives. About 150 people at a time were on UCI’s kidney transplant waiting list.

UCI performed 30 transplants last year and turned down seven kidneys between October 2001 and June 2005 because a doctor wasn’t available.

The problems with UCI’s kidney program are similar to the flaws that forced the hospital to close its liver transplant program in November.

Federal investigators had found that more than 30 people died at the hospital over the previous two years while awaiting liver transplants. The program did not have a full-time surgeon for more than a year, the Times reported.