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Hospital Organ Donor Programs Push the Envelope

   March 27, 2014

MTS found a way to transport brain-dead donors out of the hospital to a free-standing mini-surgical suite, keeping them alive until surgeons from recipient hospitals could arrive to retrieve the organs allocated to their patients. To date, organs from more than 1,100 brain-dead donors have been recovered there.

And because imitation is the biggest form of flattery, three other programs have started in other cities and two other programs in Chicago and Philadelphia are trying to do the same. But for concerns about the way Medicare reimburses transplant centers that recover organs from brain-dead donors, many more would be operating now, I'm sure.

Medicare Rules Make Offsite Organ Recovery Costly

In a phone call last week, Diane Brockmeier, MTS's long-time chief operating officer, explained how the idea evolved, from a complaint from an irritated critical care physician at a busy, large trauma hospital in St. Louis, to what she called "a cocktail napkin conversation," to feasibility studies, to reality.

The frustrated and concerned critical care doctor was gripping at her. He complained, "I go home, and your staff tells me they're working (on assessing the donor), and I come back the next morning, and your staff is still working on things. You're staying in the ICU too long, absorbing a lot of resources. And I leave in the afternoon and your staff is still here, using a lot of high level nursing staff. Can't you shorten this process so it requires fewer resources from our staff and hospital?"

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