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Kidney and liver transplants shut down at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

According to spokeswoman Barbara Schindo, the program has been inactive since April. Penn State Health voluntarily and temporarily shut down the program.

HERSHEY, Pa. — Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center ceased performing kidney and liver transplants earlier this year, and recently, the state health department and federal agencies revealed the results of a survey that found multiple issues with the health center's program. 

A two-day inspection of the program was conducted in early May that was spurred by a complaint. As a result of the inspection, a report was produced on the problems observed with the program.

According to spokeswoman Barbara Schindo, the program has been inactive since April. Penn State Health voluntarily and temporarily shut down the program, even prior to the inspection taking place. 

One issue detailed in the report is staff not recognizing and looking into six incidents of patients who had just received transplants having to go back to the operating room because of medical issues. When these incidents occur, the staff is supposed to analyze the transplant process to look for ways it may need to change. 

The report goes on to detail two separate incidents where patients were not told that they were being offered "high-risk" organs; in such cases, receiving these organs can put patients at a higher risk of organ failure or hepatitis or HIV transmission. This, according to inspectors, violates the process called "informed consent" where patients are given the option to deny such organs. In one of these cases, the patient was informed of their new, high-risk organ at a follow-up appointment, the report claims. 

The kidney and liver transplant program is further faulted in the report for not informing the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of important personnel changes. 

According to Schindo, Penn State Health has notified about 1,100 patients of the shutdown, including about 200 on its waiting lists for kidney or liver transplants, and is offering help to those who wish to switch to another transplant center. 

Also according to Schindo, the medical center has since "engaged an experienced outside third party to conduct an extensive review" of the abdominal transplant program, which includes liver and kidney transplants. 

"Both the UNOS and external reviews determined that while our clinical outcomes have been on par with other transplant programs, we have opportunities for structural and operational improvements that will enhance the program," Schindo said in a statement provided to FOX43. "Subsequent CMS and DOH reviews of our program found similar opportunities for improvement and regulatory compliance." 

She says that the medical center has also taken steps to address the problems listed above, including, developing comprehensive action plans that were submitted to CMS in mid-July and were accepted. These plans, she says, were further audited by the DOH who have since confirmed that they have been implemented successfully. 

"As we continue to work with the UNOS towards reactivation of the program, our focus remains foremost on the needs and well-beings of our patients and their families," Schindo further said in her statement. "Our transplant patients are being provided with regular updates, and Hershey Medical Center continues to provide post-transplant care for the hundreds of kidney and liver patients currently served." 

Schindo also stated that the shutdown of the abdominal transplant program at Hershey Medical Center does not affect other Penn State Health transplant programs, including stem cell and bone marrow transplant programs and the heart transplant program. 

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