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UPMC’s lung transplant program placed on probation |

UPMC’s lung transplant program placed on probation

A national organ-sharing group has put UPMC’s lung transplant program on probation for a year, listing concerns about how the program handled donated organs.

The United Network for Organ Sharing cited 14 cases in 2013 and 2014 when the hospital system accepted lungs that UPMC doctors later found could not be transplanted in intended recipients, said Dr. Jonathan D’Cunha, UPMC’s lung transplantation surgical director.

UPMC kept the organs for other patients in UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, an approach approved by regional organ procurement groups that supplied the lungs, D’Cunha said. But UNOS, a nonprofit that manages the American organ transplant system, objected to what it called “an unusually high number of instances” of the practice.

Probation ordered by the board of UNOS and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network took effect Monday, according to UNOS.

D’Cunha said the transplant program remains fully operational but will be operating under a corrective-action plan.

UPMC “will need to notify their patients of the action, but they are still (allowed) to perform transplants,” a UNOS spokeswoman said via email.

It isn’t clear how UNOS learned about the matter.

D’Cunha said the conflict arose from differing interpretations of UNOS policies. He said UPMC has come into “100 percent compliance” with the standards since UNOS objected in September.

“Our intention was clearly to help patients and not have any lungs go to waste. Often, the patients on our list — this (hospital) is their last hope,” D’Cunha said.

He said the doctors have only hours to work with an organ once it arrives at the hospital, and “decisions have to be made relatively quickly.”

In a statement, Richmond, Va.,-based UNOS said a professional standards committee ran a systematic review of the lung transplant program.

“While the institution has instituted a corrective action plan, the (committee) concluded that the organization requires close monitoring as it continues its quality improvement process,” UNOS said.

D’Cunha said UPMC is “fully accountable” and had seen no decline in patient outcomes since amending its practices. He said the Downtown-based hospital system appreciated UNOS’ feedback and is strengthening the lung program, including by increasing awareness of organ donation.

Presby completed 85 lung transplants last year.

“We’re using this in a positive way to make adjustments, to enhance us being a model for organ transplantation in the UNOS community,” D’Cunha said.

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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