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Archive for Tuesday, June 20, 1995

COMMITTEE BEGINS PROBE INTO KUMC

June 20, 1995

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A review panel reviewing the center's heart transplant program begins its work this week behind closed doors.

The head of a committee that this week begins its review of the troubled heart transplant program at the Kansas University Medical Center wasn't particularly surprised by an accrediting organization's surprise visit to the hospital earlier this month.

The hospital shut down its heart transplant program in April, and on June 9, KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway appointed a 14-person committee of faculty and outside experts to look into allegations that the program admitted patients but rejected donated hearts and performed no transplants for a 10-month period in 1994 and 1995.

State legislators and Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall are looking into the matter, and a KUMC spokesman, Randy Attwood, confirmed today that the organization that evaluates and accredits U.S. hospitals also is investigating.

Attwood said a two-person team from the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations made an unannounced visit to KUMC on June 5.

The commission's next scheduled visit wasn't until August 1996.

Attwood said the focus of the inquiry was the heart transplant program. He said the Joint Commission, based in Oak Brook, Ill., will release its findings July 19.

"With the allegations that have been made, it doesn't surprise me that it did come and look," Tom Hammond, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents and chairman of the heart transplant peer review panel, said today.

The peer review panel holds its first meeting at 3 p.m. Friday at the medical center. Hammond said the committee's meetings are not open to the public, but the panel will report to the medical center's council on hospital governance, whose meetings are open.

The review committee hopes to finish most of its work before Sept. 1, when outgoing Navy Surgeon General Donald Hagen takes over as the medical center's executive vice chancellor, the top administrative post there.

Hagen has indicated that he doubts a single doctor was responsible for all of the problems within the heart transplant program.

"Being on the board of regents, I certainly hope it is not a sign of a bigger problem," Hammond, a Wichita lawyer, said today.

"Chancellor Hemenway indicated he wanted us to go in, find out what the facts are and make some recommendations as to how we can remedy any problems we have in the program," Hammond said. "I certainly don't intend to go in and whitewash it ... Wherever the chips fall, they fall."

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