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UA Medical Center recognized for transplant care

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona today  recognized University of Arizona Medical Center—University Campus (UAMC) with a Blue Distinction Center® designation for delivering quality transplant care as part of the Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care® program.  Blue Distinction Centers are hospitals shown to deliver quality specialty care based on objective, transparent measures for patient safety and health outcomes that were developed with input from the medical community.

In 2006, the Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program was developed to help patients find quality providers for their specialty care needs while encouraging health-care professionals to improve the care they deliver.  To receive a Blue Distinction Centers for Transplants® designation, a hospital must demonstrate success in meeting patient safety criteria as well as transplant-specific quality measures (including survival metrics).

“UAMC is proud to be recognized by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona for meeting the rigorous selection criteria for transplants set by the Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program,” said Deborah Maurer, UAMC associate vice president of transplant services. “BDCT designation is an important quality indicator for patients, employers and insurers, and a validation that our efforts to strengthen our transplant programs are succeeding.”

The number of transplants – including heart, lung, liver, pancreas and bone marrow/stem cell – in the United States  have increased in recent years.  There were 28,954 transplant procedures performed in 2013, compared to 28,052 in 2012.  Today, more than 123,000 people are awaiting organ donations for transplants, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.  Additionally, the department estimates  more than 20,000 people each year may benefit from a bone marrow/stem cell transplant as their best treatment option.  These transplant procedures cost the nation more than $20 billion annually at an average of approximately $500,000 each, according to the Milliman Research Report, “2011 U.S. Organ and Tissue Transplant Cost Estimates and Discussion.” 

“BCBSAZ congratulates UMAC on this recognition, along with their commitment to quality care while helping members better manage their care through the Blue Distinction Specialty Care Program,” said Vishu Jhaveri, MD, BCBSAZ chief medical officer.

Research shows that Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients with higher survival rates, compared with their peers.  

The Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program identifies hospitals delivering quality care in bariatric surgery, cardiac care, complex and rare cancers, knee and hip replacements, spine surgery and transplants.  These specialty areas comprise approximately 30 percent of inpatient hospital expenditures.  For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated facilities, please visit www.bcbs.com/bluedistinction.

Health Resolutions to Make Before the New Year

UAMC to Discontinue Home Health Services

University of Arizona Medical Center announced it will discontinue its home health services in the next 30 days.

UAMC Home Health currently provides approximately 400 patients with intermittent nursing care in the home. Patients who require ongoing home health care will be transitioned to the care of other home health agencies in the community.

UAMC’s 36 home health staff members include nurses, therapists, social workers and others. They will receive severance packages based on their length of service and their benefits will be continued for two months. UAMC anticipates that most will find other jobs elsewhere in the UA Health Network, one of the largest employers in Tucson with more than 6,000 employees.

UAMC is making a business decision to devote its resources to services and programs not duplicated or available elsewhere in the community, such as trauma, organ transplantation and the high-tech specialty care that make UAMC a referral center for other hospitals around the state, said Karen Mlawsky, CEO of the Hospital Division of the UA Health Network.

“We are confident our patients will be well served by the many community agencies offering home-care services,” she said. “The health-care environment is changing at a rapid pace. Many providers are adapting to these changes by focusing time and limited financial resources on core business initiatives. UAMC strives to meet the needs of the community by providing services that are unavailable elsewhere.”

heart transplant helps 3 year old

3-Year-Old Receives Heart Transplant At UAMC

After chemotherapy damaged her heart, Mary Olivia Bingham received a successful heart transplant at The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus.

A 3-year-old Vail, Ariz., girl is back at home, jumping on the bed and teasing her four siblings after receiving a heart transplant at The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus last month.

Cardiothoracic surgeons in the UA department of surgery performed the April 12 heart transplant on Mary Olivia Bingham after chemotherapy damaged her heart.

“This is a miracle,’’ said the child’s mother, Taber Bingham, as she held a sleeping Mary in her arms a few days following the heart transplant.

This beautiful child with wide, brown eyes and a dynamic spirit has endured great challenges. She came to live with Taber and her husband, Burke Bingham, and their four children when she was 3 weeks old. The Binghams took foster children into their home on an emergency, short-term basis.

When Burke first saw Mary, he somehow knew this child would become his daughter. While Mary had a family that adored her, they could not care for her. The Binghams were set to adopt her in fall  2010, when Mary was 18 months old.

The day before the adoption was to be finalized, however, the family received devastating news. Mary, who had been in pain, was diagnosed with acute monocytic leukemia, rare in children. Tests showed the cells had invaded as much as 90 percent of her bone marrow.

The best chance of survival came in the form of more than five months of intense, in-patient chemotherapy. To finalize the adoption, the judge traveled to the hospital room at UAMC, with Mary surrounded by the Binghams and her four new siblings, Beck, 10, twins Jake and Raven, 13, and Sierra, 15.

The Binghams knew the very toxic chemotherapy could damage Mary’s heart. “I thought, ‘We’ll deal with it when it comes,’” said Taber, a labor and delivery nurse.

She and her husband, an employee with the City of Tucson, staggered their schedules so one of them could always be with Mary. The child’s biological grandmother would sing songs to her over the phone.

About a month after discharge, with Mary in remission, it was discovered that the chemotherapy had indeed damaged the child’s left ventricle, and her heart was pumping half the normal amount.

It was hoped that medication might help the heart recuperate, but Mary’s condition worsened. On Thanksgiving Day 2011, she had a seizure and was airlifted to UAMC. Her parents thought they were losing her.

Always the fighter, Mary rebounded. It was clear, however, that her heart was not improving. In early April, she was placed on the heart transplant waiting list.

On April 11, the family ended up at UAMC after Mary became ill. While in the hospital, word came that a heart might be available.

While the size and genetics of the donor heart were excellent matches, it wasn’t clear whether the heart itself would be in good enough condition – the donor had required CPR, which can damage the heart. Also, the donor was several hours away by air, and a delay of more than four hours also can damage the organ.

That night, Dr. M. Cristina Smith, assistant professor in the UA department of surgery and director of heart transplant and ventricular-assist device services at UAMC, flew to the donor, who was on life support with no brain activity. There, she determined the heart was “perfect.”

As Smith rushed back to Tucson with the heart, Mary was prepared for surgery. When the wheels of the aircraft hit the ground, Mary was placed on the heart-lung bypass machine, and her heart was removed.

The donor heart was transplanted in the early morning hours of the next day by Smith and Dr. Jess L. Thompson III, pediatric cardiovascular surgeon and assistant professor in the UA department of surgery.

“The surgery went extremely well,’’ said Thompson, adding  that about 300 pediatric heart transplants are performed each year in the U.S. “The heart function was excellent.’’

Dr. Michael F. Teodori, professor of surgery and director of pediatric heart surgery, added, “Drs. Smith and Thompson did a terrific job with the entire team continuing the pioneering work of the heart transplant center here at The University of Arizona Medical Center.”

The Binghams are joyful over the heart transplant, but know a family is grieving the loss of their baby. They are thankful for the gift that saved their child’s life, and for the UAMC team.

“It is a fantastic team,’’ Burke said.

Said Taber, “They have all collaborated for Mary. They are almost like family.’’

The couple said they were relieved they did not have to leave Tucson.

“We didn’t have to go anywhere else,’’ Taber said. “We didn’t have to uproot our family and leave behind all of our resources in the community. We’re very fortunate.’’