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Embattled St. Vincent Hospital Replaces CEO

Times Staff Writer

St. Vincent Medical Center replaced its chief executive this week, less than three months after the Los Angeles hospital suspended its liver transplant program amid scandal.

A memo sent to employees late Tuesday by the hospital’s parent company did not say whether Gus Valdespino had resigned or been fired.

He had worked at the hospital for less than two years and is being replaced on an interim basis by Jerry Clute, senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Hospital spokesman Paul Silva said Wednesday that Valdespino’s departure was “completely unrelated to any issues with the transplant program.”

“In order to respect his privacy, we are not going to discuss the reasons for his departure,” Silva added.

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In an interview, Valdespino cited “philosophical differences” with the Daughters of Charity Health System, which owns the hospital, over the “strategic and financial management of the facility.”

In the staff memo, Bain Farris, president and chief executive of the Daughters of Charity system, wrote that “during Gus’ term as CEO, St. Vincent Medical Center faced many significant challenges.”

“Gus was instrumental in recruiting a new group of anesthesiologists for the hospital. He worked tirelessly to address the priority issues that he identified over his term. Additionally, Gus successfully hired many talented members for the St. Vincent management team.”

Before starting at the hospital in February 2004, Valdespino worked at Tenet Healthcare Corp. as senior vice president of operations for the Southern California region.

The liver transplant problems became public in September after a routine audit. Valdespino acknowledged that surgeons had misappropriated an organ two years earlier in a serious violation of national standards. Staff members then tried to cover up the misallocation by falsifying records, he said.

The hospital immediately suspended liver transplants and announced last month that the program would not reopen.

Valdespino has said that he didn’t want the problems in St. Vincent’s liver program to frighten potential organ donors.

“I believe that our willingness to be forthcoming should at least give some people comfort that transplant centers are truly respectful of the obligation that they have to keep the issue of transplantation beyond reproach,” he said at the time. “There’s a greater obligation here.... We’re not attempting to run and hide.”

On Saturday, The Times reported on problems with the hospital’s kidney transplant program.

Over the last several years, St. Vincent patients have died at a higher-than-expected rate after their kidney transplants, prompting some insurers to stop sending patients to the program and regulators to investigate.


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