Kaiser announced May 12 that its kidney program was being shut down. Some patients waiting to be transferred to other programs died before the transfer could occur. Kaiser is also in trouble for its record-keeping problems and mismanagement of the entire kidney transplant program.
Approximately 2,300 people are being transferred from Kaiser's program to kidney transplant programs at other hospitals. Patients are being sent to either the University of California, Davis or the University of California, San Francisco medical centers. For many patients, these are the same medical centers they were transferred out of when Kaiser began performing its own kidney transplants in 2004.
At first it seemed that all patients would be transferred within weeks of the Kaiser kidney program shut down. However, the process is taking longer than expected. Officials now say that all patients should be transferred by the end of the year.
So far, approximately half of Kaiser's patients have been transferred to the other medical centers. Critics claim this process is taking too long and has put patients at risk. One hundred and thirty-nine patients awaiting a kidney transplant have died since May 12, according to a Medicare report.
Officials at UC Davis have said that 20% to 25% of the Kaiser patients reviewed at Davis do not meet the criteria to be placed on the waiting list. This could be because they are now too sick to undergo a kidney transplant.
In June, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services determined that almost the entire kidney program at Kaiser had failed patients. A report by the L.A. Times found that Kaiser put the lives of hundreds of patients at risk when it improperly transferred them from other kidney transplant programs to its own.
Another problem is that Kaiser had left the names of 90 dead patients on the national waiting list for organs. This was discovered after the patient transfer order on May 12. Some of the patients died as far back as 2004.
Representatives for the company blamed a data-processing backlog.
The waiting list is maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). It determines the order in which patients receive donated kidneys. Patients who have been on the list the longest are first priority for kidney transplants.
Kaiser agreed in August to pay a $2 million fine and make a $3 million contribution to promote organ donation. At one point, federal regulators threatened to cut off Medicare funding for kidney services at Kaiser's San Francisco hospital. They have since rescinded that threat.