Newark Beth Israel breaks ties with director of troubled heart transplant program

Mark Zucker, MD, director of Newark (N.J.) Beth Israel Medical Center’s heart transplant program left his role Oct. 30 after being on administrative leave for the last year, reports ProPublica.

Newark Beth Israel said Dr. Zucker and hospital leaders “mutually agreed that this is an appropriate time for a formal leadership transition,” according to a hospital news release shared with Becker’s.  

Dr. Zucker will no longer be affiliated with Newark Beth Israel but will still maintain privileges to treat private patients at other RWJBarnabas Health hospitals. West Orange, N.J.-based RWJBarnabas Health is Newark Beth Israel’s parent system.

Hospital leaders placed Dr. Zucker on administrative leave last year after an October 2019 ProPublica investigation accused the hospital of keeping a patient in a vegetative state alive for a year to improve the transplant program’s survival rate. Recordings obtained by the newsroom show Dr. Zucker instructed hospital staff to avoid giving the patient’s family the option to withdraw care and switch to palliative treatments until after September 2019, or one year after his transplant.

CMS investigated Newark Beth Israel after ProPublica’s exposé and identified several deficiencies with the heart transplant program, which the hospital has since corrected. The hospital hired outside experts to conduct its own investigation, which found that Dr. Zucker and the transplant team’s post-transplant care for the patient was not unethical or compromised by concerns about survival rates, according to the hospital.

“Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has always had a reputation for providing high quality care, state-of-the-art care, and I am truly proud to have worked there for more than three decades, served the community with honor, and contributed substantially to that reputation,” Dr. Zucker said in a statement that his lawyer sent to ProPublica.

Newark Beth Israel said it will soon begin a national search for a new heart transplant program director.

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