Porter Adventist Hospital, located in Denver, announced this week that it is suspending its transplant program in order to address shortcomings in staffing and processes.
In a statement, Porter Adventist CEO Todd Folkenberg acknowledged it was a difficult decision to temporarily shut down the transplant program. He also laid out the plan for the duration of the program’s voluntary suspension, which is expected to last for 6-12 months.
“As we embark on the rebuilding process, we will be partnering with Florida Hospital Transplant Institute, one of the top multi-organ transplant programs in the country,” Folkenberg says. “We look forward to the collaboration with their teams and our hospital partners, affiliates, physicians and clinicians who share our vision to reimagine how we care for transplant patients – before, during and after transplant.”
Earlier this year, the facility felt obligated to alert patients to lapses in sterilizations processes, but hospital officials insist the current situation is unrelated.
“This is a totally separate issue and program,” Wendy Forbes, spokesperson for Porter Adventist’s parent company, Centura Health, told the Denver Post.
The problem with surgical instruments that went through a faulty cleaning process was centered in the orthopedic and spine surgery program within the hospital. The transplant program covers procedures related to the kidney, liver, and pancreas.
According to hospital officials, the leanness of the transplant program staff was a major driver of the change. Porter Adventist reports the competitive healthcare labor market has led to struggles in replacing experienced personnel who departed in recent years.
“We wanted to take a step back and look at our staffing challenges,” Forbes says.
The presence of a robust, well-prepared staff is especially critical for transplant programs, according to Niraj Desai, MD, who directs the kidney and pancreas transplant programs at Johns Hopkins. The availability of donor organs is unpredictable, and surgeons and other personnel need to be ready on very short notice.
“Scaling back might not always work,” Desai tells CNN. “You almost need a critical mass just to get started.”
Over 230 patients were specifically told they would need to look elsewhere for their needed transplant surgeries, according to the Denver Post. Porter Adventist referred patients to two nearby hospitals with transplants programs and indicates they are actively working with the United Network for Organ Sharing to provide further support.
Main image credit: Jeffrey Beall, via Flickr.