Friday, May 16, 2008

Nevada Officials Look to Improve Organ Transplant Programs

From Las Vegas Now:

Right now, 500 people in Nevada are waiting for life saving organ transplants. Yet here in Clark County, many are forced to go elsewhere for treatment.

Glen "Gondo" Gondrezick is one of those people. He's a former Runnin' Rebel basketball star and radio announcer for the team. He needs a heart transplant and has been in intensive care since last week. He may be able to leave the hospital Thursday.

But if a heart is found, he will still need to travel to California for the surgery. That could soon change. UMC and Sunrise Hospital are taking a major step in improving transplant programs here in the valley. It makes the two hospitals eligible to transplant other organs in the future, but it will take time to get there.

Right now, doctors in Las Vegas only transplant kidneys at two hospitals. In 2007 University Medical Center performed 40 kidney transplants. Sunrise did 26. The hospitals announced they will merge their transplant units and all the surgeries will be at UMC.

There are currently 200 people in southern Nevada waiting for an organ other than a kidney. All of them must leave the state for those procedures. 300 people in southern Nevada are waiting for kidneys. Those procedures will be done at UMC.

In the hospital world, there is a magic number of 50. When one center reaches 50 kidney transplants a year, the hospital receives a Centers for Excellence designation. That opens the door to add transplants for other organs down the road.

Ken Richardson with the Nevada Donor Network says an area as large as we are should be transplanting other organs.

"We are probably now the largest community in the U.S. with two million people that does not have a liver transplant program," he said.

The head of UMC says she wants to expand to liver transplants in the future as a way to continue to expand. The merger will be effective July 1st. All patients are being notified through a letter.

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