Kaiser Permanente’s Kidney Transplant Program Leaves Many Still Waiting

Recent reports of mismanagement in Kaiser Permanente’s new San Francisco kidney transplant program have revealed that hundreds of patients were removed from transplant eligibility lists for months, and some were refused authorization for transplants at UC San Francisco when possible kidney matches became available.

Kaiser Permanente, the largest HMO in the United States, had contracts with UC Davis and UC San Francisco in California to handle kidney transplants for Kaiser patients. In 2004, Kaiser cancelled those contracts after opening its own kidney transplant program in San Francisco. Kaiser planned to transfer all of its kidney transplant patients to its new San Francisco program, but the transfers did not all go well, and it now appears that the process had been mismanaged, leaving an untold number without transplant eligibility for a long period of time, increasing the overall waiting time for those in need of a transplant.

Kidney transplant candidates receive dialysis treatment while they wait for a transplant match or eligibility. While dialysis treatment is necessary to keep the patient alive, prolonged treatment can cause complications and infections and can lessen the chances of a successful transplant later. While it is possible that some patients may have had to wait too long as a result of Kaiser’s mismanagement, it will take time to determine the full impact of Kaiser’s decision to cancel its contracts with UC Davis and UC San Francisco, its failure to timely transfer its patients to its new program, and its failure to notify patients of what was going on.

In 2005 116 patients on Kaiser’s kidney transplant waiting list died, while 56 received transplants. In California as a whole, 1,800 transplants were performed and 866 patients on waiting lists died. As a managed care provider in California, Kaiser Permanente is obligated to provide patients with access to adequate health care. It is now under investigation by the California Department of Managed Health Care for its operation of its Northern California kidney transplant program.

See Kaiser Permanente’s Kidney Transplant Program: Kaiser Mismanagement Under Investigation for details. Kaiser may also be liable for medical malpractice if its negligence caused harm to its patients. 

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