UC Irvine Begins Its Medical Overhaul

Times Staff Writer

UC Irvine is beginning program-by-program reviews of its medical center, hiring consultants and launching its search for top healthcare officials, recommendations made by a panel of outside experts that reviewed the university’s troubled medical programs.

In an update e-mailed to faculty and staff Tuesday night, UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake outlined the progress made on recommendations by the task force he assembled in the wake of dire problems with UCI Medical Center’s liver transplant program.

“While the last several months have been difficult and challenging for all of us, I am confident that the many efforts underway to improve our programs will ultimately result in an unparalleled standard of patient care,” Drake said in the e-mail.

The Times reported in November that 32 patients had died awaiting liver transplant operations in 2004 and 2005, when the hospital in Orange turned down scores of organs, sometimes because no surgeon was available. Since then, other problems have been reported, including trouble with other transplant services, allegations of nepotism and concerns that top cardiologists were not properly credentialed.

Drake, who will be inaugurated Friday as UCI’s fifth chancellor, was out of town and unavailable for comment. He took office July 1.


In the e-mail, Drake outlined his plan for addressing the task force’s concerns, including findings that there was a “failure of leadership and accountability” and poor oversight.

Drake appointed a 14-member committee, headed by Dr. Alan Barbour, a professor in the School of Medicine, to conduct a nationwide search for a vice chancellor of health affairs, a new position that will oversee the hospital and medical school and report to the chancellor.

A national search firm will help identify candidates, preferably ones with experience at an academic research institution but with a background in the financial aspects of medical care, Barbour said.

The committee hopes to have the position filled by the start of the fall quarter, but it could take until July 2007, Barbour said.

In addition, a search for an ombudsman is underway to make it easier for faculty and staff at the hospital to report problems. An interim ombudsman is working part time.

The report also raised concerns about “small” or “thin” programs with marginal staffing and inadequate resources. It suggested a rigorous institutional review and said problems have occurred when “good intentions and ambitious plans for growth exceeded both the financial and management resources available to assure quality and success.”

To help resolve that, about 100 managers from the medical school and hospital will attend planning sessions this summer at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. And the medical programs will get separate reviews.

A campus committee will review all clinical programs at the university, Drake said.