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National organ transplant oversight organization sanctions Penn State Health

Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center stopped performing kidney and liver transplants following reports of serious problems.

HERSHEY, Pa. — Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center stopped performing kidney and liver transplants earlier this year, following reports of serious problems. In October, the nation’s leading organ transplant watchdog declared the hospital a “member not in good standing.”

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) is a quasi-governmental organization operating under contract for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. OPTN hasn’t designated a member not in good standing, its strongest rebuke, since 2006.

In a statement, OPTN listed problems such as failing to notify federal officials about important personnel changes and a culture of retaliation for reporting potential problems. It also cited a May inspection by the Pennsylvania Department of Health that found the hospital failed to analyze cases of transplant patients being readmitted for surgery for possible ways to improve the process. In 2022, six of 31 liver or kidney transplant patients had to return to the hospital for additional surgery.

A hospital not in good standing can still operate, but the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center voluntarily shut down kidney and liver transplants in April after a separate complaint.

Penn State Health said in a statement that they had expected the decision, writing:

“We’ve taken significant steps to implement our action plans, including working to recruit new, world-class transplant surgeons; making program staffing changes; and improving our quality and compliance processes. We have undertaken a full program review to assure regulatory compliance at all levels, and we are continuing to focus on building a positive culture within the program. The rapid progress we are making and the intensive focus on restarting our abdominal transplant program demonstrate the importance that Penn State Health leadership places on this crucial program.”

OPTN may reconsider the hospital’s standing in June 2023.

Penn State Health said it will have more information about the transplant program’s leadership in the future.

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