University Hospitals replaces director of fertility clinic as crisis deepens

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - University Hospitals announced Tuesday that James Goldfarb, MD, the Division Chief of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, will leave that position to focus on coordinating all UH Fertility Clinic patient care.

James Liu, MD, Chairman of the Department of OB/GYN will now be heading the fertility clinic lab.

University Hospitals released the following statement:

James Goldfarb, MD, division chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility, will now focus on coordinating all UH Fertility Clinic patient care to assure we are effectively supporting the clinical needs of our patients.  University Hospitals asked James Liu, MD, chair of the Department of OB/GYN, to take primary lead over the fertility clinic lab. In addition to our equipment upgrades, including new tanks, alarms, surveillance and remote monitoring systems, we have added additional staff to accommodate increased patient volume.

The news comes weeks after a nitrogen storage tank failed, leading to the potential destruction of thousands of eggs and embryos. In response, the hospital has been hit with scores of lawsuits from impacted patients.

Hundreds of families are still reeling from their loss.

Cleveland19 spoke with one couple who is channeling their pain into action.

Sylwia and Paul Sierko of Mantua say changes need to start now on the state and federal level to regulate the fertility industry.

The couple lost five embryos after the storage tank crisis at University Hospitals.

"My choice of having one or two kids, my choice-- they took away every dream we had," Sylwia Sierko said.

They have a six-year-old daughter Claudia, who was previously born through IVF.

They say it was difficult to explain what happened to her.

"She said to me, 'mommy, I will never have a brother or a sister.' It breaks our hearts," Sylwia Sierko said.

This was a second major blow to their family.

They froze their embryos as Sylwia fought cancer.

"You saw her suffer so much. But at the end of the day, you saw the tunnel, it was like hey, let's go through it, we're going to have a great life," Paul Sierko said.

But now they're living a future they didn't picture.

So they're focusing on other families going through IVF.

The Sierkos want to see fertility clinic employees review storage tanks daily.

And if a patient has more than one embryo or specimen, they say they should be stored in separate tanks as a safety guard.

They want the head of the clinic to get alerts if anything, like a dip in temperature goes wrong.

Overall, they want more choices in the hands of patients.

"There should be a notification for the patient that if something is wrong with the tank, call us email us and give us a chance to move it," Sylwia Sierko said.

Sylwia and Paul are not giving up until something changes.

They're reaching out to lawmakers for help now.

UBS, the company that made the storage tank, says their equipment did not malfunction and human error is to blame.

University Hospitals is still investigating. They say they're still working on finding the "ultimate cause" and they've accepted responsibility.

They have admitted human error was at least partially involved in the past.

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