Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mismanagement in the OC - the Report on UCI

We most recently posted on the trouble at University of California - Irvine (UCI) here. Now new information has come out about mismanagement at UCI. An independent report commissioned by the university that focused on the now closed liver transplant program. Per the Orange County Register and Los Angeles Times, the report found
  • "Throughout its review, the committee observed a general lack of accountability within the medical school and from an overall campus perspective. The committee observed a laisssez-faire attitude toward many of the red flag issues that ultimately led to the closure of the (liver) program."
  • According to the Register, the committee also "faulted an organizational structure that left a power vacuum at the top, with no medically trained individual responsible for both the school and the hospital."
  • Again according to the Register, "the absence of clear reporting lines and strong management oversight were contributing factors" not only in the failure of the liver transplant program, but in the 1995 fertility clinic and 1999 donated organ program scandals.
  • UCI leaders made statements "that were not wholly accurate and likely misleading."
  • Whistle-blowers were ignored, "legitimate complaints of people were not necessarily addressed in an appropriate way."
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported that the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) decided to put the UCI kidney transplant program on probation, noting that "the need for the institution to implement changes is evident."
Meanwhile, the Times reported an echo from one of the earlier scandals at UCI. In 1995, two UCI fertility experts, Dr Ricardo Asch and Dr Jose Balmaceda, were accused of extracting eggs and embryos of patients without their permission, and implanting them in other patients who were told that they had been freely donated. Both Asch and Balmaceda fled the US. Asch is apparently now living in Argentina, ina a "chalet surrounded by security guards 24 hours a day in an affluent neighborhood in Buenos Aires." An Assistant US Attorney who handled the case said, "it is my great hope these guys will be brought to justice before I retire."
Again, these findings should be contrasted with claims by members of the UC board of regents that their justification for providing top managers with high salaries and a variety of generous perks and benefits was to attract the very top people (see post here). Maybe the people who demand the highest pay, benefits, and perks are actually less fit to not-for-profit health care institutions.

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