says she's learned by now, all she can do is sit, and wait.
"One day at at a time, that's what you have to do," she says. Mayo
needs a kidney transplant because of a genetic kidney disease so, she
says in 1999, her HMO - Kaiser Permanente - referred her to UCSF
Medical Center to be put on the waiting list. "I was a Kaiser patient
and they didn't do transplants," she explains.
And in 2004,
Mayo believed she was about to get one at UCSF. "I thought
I was at the top of the list there."
that could happen, Kaiser announced they would take over
doing those transplants themselves rather than paying UCSF to do them.
And they sent her a letter, promising: "...you will not lose your place
on the waiting list."
happened? "Never heard from 'em. Never heard from Kaiser," says
Mayo. She says, never heard for a year. And when the family finally did
get someone at Kaiser to respond? "They didn't recognize the case, and
thought they must've misplaced my chart. They didn't know where it
was." She says they didn't even seem to know who she was.
So now Mayo,
who expected to wait four years for a new kidney, has been
waiting seven. "It's sort of a fatalistic feeling, because I'm almost
ready to give up."
kidney transplant program administrators say it's supposed to
be a model for the rest of the country. But CBS 5 Investigates has
uncovered troubling questions about the program, not just from patients
but from insiders. For instance we found two of the center's three
transplant nephrologists, doctors who look after kidney patients before
and after surgery, although still technically on staff, are on personal
leave - and not actually working in the program.
One of them,
Dr. James Chon, in an apparent dispute with Kaiser over
the status of his employment, wrote a 12-page letter to Kaiser's
physician-in-chief in January, detailing problems he saw in the
program, including 'numerous resignations' and other internal issues,
which the doctor called "very serious and potentially explosive
agree with the word explosive," says Mike Alexander, a Kaiser
executive. "I think that is his opinion. I think we've had a great
success rate, we've had the startup challenges any program has, I think
there have been some communication issues." But he says when it comes
to patients: "I don't believe we held up any transplant process because
we were in a startup mode."
But not so,
according to David Merlin. "The program as I saw it was
disorganized, information was misplaced, lost, entire patients were
lost for long periods of time. Merlin is the former administrator for
Kaiser's transplant program.
"You mean they lost track of patients?"
the problem? Merlin claims Kaiser's transplant program was
set up poorly, and still today is disorganized. "I had administrative
staff and nursing staff bringing me phone messages and patient charts,
here's another one, here's another one, here's another one that fell
through the cracks and that was a term they used often."
effect on patients? Merlin says many were left waiting, he
recounted one who he says asked him personally: "So David, does this
mean that I have lost potentially two and a half years on the wait
list. In my mind when he asked that question I knew, I was saying yes!"
says: "Many, including myself, were concerned that some
patients may have had a tremendous decline in their health status
because of the neglect that had occurred. And the patients have a right
is misinformed, or providing misinformation." responds Dr.
Sharon Inokuchi, who heads Kaiser's kidney transplant program. "Every
single Kaiser patient was taken care of by Kaiser. We transitioned
their care as smoothly as we could." Of any patients they lost track
of, she says: "They did not suffer any disadvantage as a consequence."
But was that
true of Corra Mayo? Both she and her daughter said they
tried to make numerous contacts time and time again with Kaiser and no
one would ever return their phone calls. "Right. It's unfortunate that
patient perception or in fact their angst, may not actually be
revealing events as they actually occurred." When we pointed out that
her daughter's a nurse, "Yes, well, we're all professionals," says
though Mayo says she was recently told she is now at the top
of Kaiser's transplant list? Inokuchi says, "She's not at the top,
there are a good deal of patients in the region who have much more
waiting time than she does. So she must wait for an appropriate and
compatible kidney donor. Because she is not without her medical risks.
It is not entirely clear that this patient will be best served by a
But just a
few hours after we finished that interview, Kaiser officials
called to bring Corra Mayo into the hospital for a transplant. And
she's now in the hospital waiting for that kidney transplant.
And a note
about David Merlin: he says after working for Kaiser for two
months, he was fired and will be filing a lawsuit in the coming weeks.
Kaiser administrators say he didn't work there long enough to
understand their system.
another front, we took our questions to the state Department of
Managed Care and have now learned that state investigators will be
looking into possible delays for patients in the transplant program as
well as other questions concerning the program.
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