A friend, who was recently killed in a Kaiser Permanente facility, and I were walking
past one of their huge signs on the way to pick of one of his 27 "medications",
and he made the comment about how there was no father in their logo.
Kaiser's killer kidney saga
As you know, a staple feature of this column is surgical errors that kill or maim us.
Whether it's sponges, scalpels, and other hardware sewn up inside patients after
operations, removal of the wrong limb, the cleansing of operating utensils with used
elevator oil (Daily Dose 2/28/2005), or any number of other snafus, you've heard about it
here repeatedly. That's because it happens so often.
But one species within this genus of mistake that doesn't get much mention in these pages
(or anywhere else) is the simple administrative errors that result in deadly surgical
cataclysms. Usually, one thinks of paperwork errors resulting in problems relating to drug
administration. You know, a scribbled prescription filled for the wrong drug, a tired
nurse misreading the dosage amount or interval off a medical chart, things of that
This isn't the only way paperwork errors can send people to the big adios, however. Case
HMO giant Kaiser Permanente has agreed to pay $2 million in fines to California regulators
and donate another $3 million to an organ donor program because of their deadly
mismanagement of their new kidney transplant center in 2004 and 2005. Once the center was
completed in 2004, Kaiser ordered as many as 1,500 of their patients awaiting kidneys to
transfer from University of California hospitals (where the transplants were originally
scheduled) to the new facility.
Apparently, the center experienced some growing pains in their administration process for
these poor, desperate souls. According to a recent Associated Press expose` on the matter,
twice as many of these patients died waiting for viable kidneys as received transplants
(which numbered only 56!) at the new center in 2005. For comparable California transplant
centers, the statistics are exactly the opposite: More than twice as many people received
lifesaving transplants as died waiting in line for them...
That's an increase in mortality of 200% for those unfortunate enough to be
"covered" by Kaiser Permanente!
An investigation by Golden State regulators revealed that many of these deaths could have
been avoided had Kaiser Permanente's handling of the transition of those in their
transplant queue been more efficient. Or rather, anything LIKE efficient. Keep reading...
In the wake (no morbid wordplay intended) of the scandal, the California regulators cited
the insurance giant for:
|Inadequate administrative oversight |
|Failure to properly address patient complaints |
|Insufficient personnel to manage transfer volume |
|Failure to provide patients with timely access to medical specialists
Of course, Kaiser Permanente is downplaying the carnage that the obviously
under-budgeted transition to their new kidney center has wrought. Quoting a source from
the AP article, one of their mouthpieces said the company regrets any "problems,
difficulties, or concerns" the experience may have caused their patients...
Hmmm. What about death? Does that qualify as a "problem," or
rally, the regulators stopped just short of declaring Kaiser liable for any deaths,
thereby likely sparing the company untold millions in court. Instead, they just rattled
their saber enough to extort a few million out of the insurance firm for their own coffers
- leaving the next of kin of those who perished waiting in line for Kaiser's kidneys to
fend for themselves...
In other words, business as usual in the hallowed halls of government.
Lamenting - and unrelenting,
William Campbell Douglass II, MD[Kingdom-Identity]
Kaiser's killer kidney saga