Lack of Transplant Organs Is “National Health Crisis,” Surgeon Says

Hospitals urged to do more

After years of stagnation, organ donations are up, and organizations that collect organs for transplantation and the hospitals they work with say their partnerships have been the key to getting the numbers to grow, according to an article posted on the HealthLeaders Media website.

The number of organs from deceased donors rose 5.6% in 2015 and 4.0% in 2014. The number of transplants, also virtually flat for the past decade, rose by 4.9% in 2015. That translates to more than 30,000 transplants in 2015—a record, but still far short of the need.

While recognizing that organ donations have increased, Mark Hobeika, MD, a transplant surgeon at Memorial Hermann–Texas Medical Center in Houston, says the recent rise in the number of transplants is not significant.

“The amount by which it has cut into the organ deficit is still very miniscule,” he said. Organ availability is still the number one issue affecting people who are on the waiting list.

“All the other things that we do, whether it is improving the operation or improving the medicine, at the end of the day, our patients die because they don’t have access to organs,” Hobeika said. “It's really a national health crisis.”

The Louisiana Hospital Association has developed a model campaign to register organ donors. LHA vice president Kenneth Alexander told HealthLeaders Media that the group offered to supply his state’s hospitals with staff and training to “make the lift as easy and light for them as possible. From my past history as a CEO, and in dealing with CEOs, they all understand the value. There is not one of them that would say it’s not important.”

Hospitals worry about fitting the transplant process into the mix of everything else they have on their plates these days, he said. At the same time, people who run hospitals need to consider the thousands of people who may die while waiting for someone to supply them with a kidney, a lung, or a liver.

“It’s part of our responsibility as caregivers,” Alexander said.

The most important factor in the success of an organ procurement organization (OPO) is its relationship with hospitals, said Howard Nathan, president of the Philadelphia-based, nonprofit Gift of Life donor program. By partnering with hospitals and training staff, OPOs aim to get involved in each case as early in the process as possible.

Infrequent and time-sensitive, the donation process can be challenging for hospitals, the article says. It involves a series of actions that begin hopefully at one hospital and, ultimately, end at another.

To make donation an option, hospitals need to take the first step by identifying candidates and contacting the OPO. From there, multiple players, from the emergency department to the operating room to the chaplain, must act quickly.

Source: HealthLeaders Media; January 22, 2016.