UIHC struggles to get DM transplants


Despite the facility’s award-winning abdominal organ transplant center, University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics officials aren’t getting any attention from Des Moines health-care centers.

The UIHC Organ Transplant Clinic has seen increased patient volume as a result of streamlining its evaluation operations. Officials have consolidated the offices of transplant physicians and medical staff into one area on the hospital’s fourth floor. The effort, completed last year, is intended to simplify the consultation process for prospective transplant recipients and allow patients a one-day trip to the hospital.

“People don’t have to run after each other to get things done,” said Alan Reed, the director of transplant and hepatobiliary surgery.

But in October, Reed told the state Board of Regents the hospital struggled to attract referrals from some doctors at Iowa Health Des Moines.

And the trend has continued, much to Reed’s confusion.

“They end up inconveniencing patients by sending them out of state,” he said.

Reed said he thought the UIHC’s decreasing costs and burgeoning quantity and quality of organ transplants would start to draw patients from Des Moines.

Amy Varcoe, a media-relations specialist for Iowa Health Des Moines, said the decision for referral location is ultimately up to the patient, among other factors.

“A patient can be referred for any number of reasons, whether it is Nebraska, Mayo, or University of Iowa,” she wrote in an e-mail.

The Des Moines Medical Center referred many of its liver-transplant patients to Omaha in 2010.

Varcoe did not comment on whether Iowa Health Des Moines doctors intentionally refrained from sending transplant patients to UIHC or potential reasons for doing so.

The UIHC Organ Transplant Clinic continues to draw praise, receiving the 2010 Iowa Partners in Efficiency Award.

The Iowa Business Council announced the clinic as a recipient at its Jan. 31 meeting. The organization grants the award, now entering its third year, to an entity in state, county, or local government that exemplifies effective and productive use of resources.

“[UIHC] has been one of the groundbreakers in efficiency,” said Elliott Smith, the executive director of Iowa Business Council. “The organ-transplant team really stood out.”

The Iowa Business Council focused on several specific reforms the UIHC made, including increasing the number of patient evaluations by 102 percent and increasing the number of patients receiving kidney and liver transplants 57 percent, according to a news release.

Changes in the clinic resulted in a $446,341 contribution in revenue in fiscal 2009. UIHC doctors, working at both the UIHC and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, performed an estimated 120 kidney transplants and 45 liver transplants in 2010, up from 94 and 34 respectively in 2009.

Reed said he thought the recent award and continued growth will help increase the number of referrals from Des Moines, as he had hoped.

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