Dr. Michael Karpf to retire as head of UK hospital

Dr. Michael Karpf

Dr. Michael Karpf, who has led the University of Kentucky Medical Center during a decade of major growth, announced Wednesday that he would retire in 2017. At 71, his retirement was not unexpected.

“We have made considerable progress, and I feel that the original goals that we established have been achieved,” Karpf said in a statement. “We have built a strong foundation for UK HealthCare,” the medical center’s brand. “Consequently, I think it is time for an organized transition to a new leader who has boundless energy to address the challenges of a rapidly evolving health care system.”

During Karpf’s 13 years at the helm, annual discharges from the hospital doubled to 37,789, and transfer of patients from other hospitals for sub-specialty care “astoundingly grew” from 1,000 to more than 18,000, annually, UK President Eli Capilouto said in a news release. “But numbers on tell part of the story.”

Capilouto said Karpf, who is paid $882,000 a year, “grew partnerships with hospitals and physicians in 180 clinical locations across the state.

. . . I am convinced that UK HealthCare is the greatest success story in modern academic health center history. This is not grandiosity. The numbers show it.”

The greatest manifestation of Karpf’s work is the new Albert B. Chandler Hospital Pavilion A, which he said will be more than 96 percent complete with projects authorized in June.

“Although Pavilion A is as technologically advanced as any hospital in the country, it is also an exceptionally empathetic facility – comfortable and comforting for our patients, their families, visitors, and, just as important, for our faculty and staff,” Karpf said. “We will also have refurbished/repurposed four of the seven floors in Pavilion HA (Kentucky Children’s Hospital). Over the next 18 months we will finally have a state-of-the-art neonatal ICU that appropriately supports a superb NICU staff and faculty.”

“Karpf’s emphasis on highly complex medical care, however, sometimes
came at a price,” reports Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader. “In 2012, UK suspended its pediatric cardiology program
after an uptick in mortality rates for babies, including at least two babies who died while in UK’s program. An internal review recommended better training for both doctors and nurses and a dedicated ICU. Earlier this year, Karpf announced a partnership
where pediatric heart surgeries at UK would be performed by a heart surgeon with a primary appointment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.”

Blackford adds, “Karpf
also is part of a whistleblower lawsuit filed by UK surgeon Paul
Kearney, who was stripped of his clinical privileges for using abusive
language toward co-workers and one patient. Kearney alleges that Karpf
targeted him after the surgeon started asking questions about the
financial dealings of UK HealthCare and the Kentucky Medical Services
,” which UK contends is not a public agency.

Karpf came to Lexington from UCLA, where he ran that university’s medical center. He said he and his wife Ellen will remain in the city, and he plans to “take a part-time faculty position working on health service and health policy issues.”

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