Medical Director Booted

    The director of UCSD Medical Center’s abdominal-transplant program has been removed from his position over allegations that he misled investigators in connection with the closure of UC Irvine Medical Center’s liver-transplant program.

    According to a written statement provided by the hospital, transplant surgeon Marquis Hart “was found to have participated” in providing inaccurate information to regulators from the United Network for Organ Sharing, a national organization that oversees transplants, about his role in UC Irvine’s liver-transplant program.

    Hart, along with Irvine officials, assured UNOS that he worked at UC Irvine Medical Center to care full-time for transplant patients, but he never left UCSD.

    Between August 2004 and December 2005, UC Irvine Medical Center had no full-time liver-transplant surgeon and turned away numerous livers available for patients on the hospital’s transplant waiting list. Many times, there was no surgeon on duty to perform the transplants, and more than 30 patients died while waiting for new livers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

    “The university has concluded that UCI representatives were not wholly accurate in describing the surgical coverage for the UCI liver transplant program,” the hospital statement said.

    Hart’s removal follows the UC Irvine Medical Center Chief Executive Ralph Cygan’s Jan. 31 decision to resign in connection with the scandal. The center’s transplant program was shut down in November under pressure from federal regulators. Richard J. Liekweg, the chief executive of UCSD Medical Center, said in the statement that the decision to remove Hart was based on a review by the UC Office of the General Counsel faulting Hart along with UC Irvine officials. He also indicated that Hart would remain at UCSD Medical Center as a transplant surgeon in good standing but without administrative responsibilities.

    Surgeon Ajai Khanna will take over as interim director of UCSD Medical Center’s transplant program, but Hart will remain a full-time surgeon at the hospital, according to Liekweg.

    Hart did not respond to an e-mail requesting an interview.

    UCSD attorney Robert Rose told the Union-Tribune that Hart was trying to merge the transplant programs in the two centers, but that he could not complete the plan because Irvine would not pay for his relocation expenses.

    UCSD Medical Center’s statement also emphasized that the quality and performance of its transplant programs were not in question.

    “In 2005, 105 patients received kidney transplants and 33 liver transplants were performed, with good outcomes in both programs,” the statement said.

    According to the Union-Tribune, UC Irvine Medical Center’s acting chief executive, Maureen Zehntner, led a four-person delegation to Chicago last week to discuss the liver-transplant scandal with a UNOS committee. The meeting was closed to the media, and regulators would not discuss what happened there.

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