Denver Hospital puts transplant program on hold

DENVER (KKTV) - Time is ticking for hundreds of Coloradans who need an organ transplant.

More than 200 of them were told this week that Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver is putting the transplant program on hold.

One of those patients is KKTV 11 News reporter Dustin Cuzick.

"I'm on dialysis right now and there are some people on dialysis for a very long time, but every day you're on dialysis, every year you're on dialysis, your odds of surviving get worse. It's not good. So it is a matter of time. So it's upsetting to know I've lost that time,” Cuzick said.

Cuzick has end-stage kidney disease. He's in need of a kidney and a pancreas. He has been on the transplant list for a little more than a year.

He got the phone call Friday stating Porter Adventist Hospital was suspending its transplant program for anywhere from six months to a year.

The hospital is one of just three transplant programs in the state. They say they're short-staffed and need time recruit more employees.

"I don't think people understand what it means to get into a transplant program. It's almost like getting into a college. You don't just go to the hospital and get on their transplant list,” Cuzick said.

Now, Cuzick has to start the process over. He'll keep his spot on the transplant list but has to be enrolled in a program in order for the hospital to complete the surgery.

"I called UCHealth, and they said it would probably be three weeks before someone called me back to even start that process because they have so many people bombarding them from Porter,” Cuzick said.

While his timeline for an organ transplant is uncertain, Cuzick asks that you take the time to sign up and be an organ donor.

"Here in Colorado, it's a box you check on your license that's going to mean the difference between life and death for somebody. And I know from being on that list, it's a huge challenge. I was facing a two and a half year wait. But some people are facing five to 10 year, even longer waits. So check that box and give life to somebody,” Cuzick said.

The state health department investigated Porter Adventist Hospital earlier this year because their surgical instruments were not properly cleaned, putting patients at risk.

Porter Adventist Hospital released the following statement:

Porter Adventist Hospital will temporarily pause its transplant procedures (kidney, pancreas and liver) as we assess, upgrade and rebuild a best-in-class program that will serve our community well into the future.

“The decision to temporarily stop performing transplants was not taken lightly,” said Todd Folkenberg, Chief Executive Officer of Porter Adventist Hospital. “As we embark on the rebuilding process, we will be partnering with Florida Hospital Transplant Institute, one of the top multi-organ transplant programs in the country. We look forward to the collaboration with their teams and our hospital partners, affiliates, physicians and clinicians who share our vision to reimagine how we care for transplant patients – before, during and after transplant.”

This voluntary and temporary deactivation of the program will provide the time necessary for Porter to recruit and expand clinical support teams and evaluate processes, technology and operational needs. A priority effort during this period will be growing the staff for this service area in both size and experience.

The hospital is working closely with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to ensure patients on the hospital’s transplant list are contacted swiftly regarding transition to other transplant programs in the area. Porter Adventist Hospital plans to reactivate its program in six to twelve months.

“All other health care services at Porter will continue without interruption during this period of rebuilding,” explained Patricia Howell, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Porter Adventist Hospital “Our transplant program staff will continue in their roles, including caring for our post-transplant recipients and complex hepatobiliary patients.” In addition, Porter Adventist Hospital transplant employees and physicians will be involved in the operational, logistical and programmatic expansion of the program.”

As one of three transplant programs in the Rocky Mountain Region, Porter Adventist Hospital has served as one of the leading organ transplant centers for more than 30 years.

“We recognize both the need and the value of our transplant services; and are proud of the impact we’ve had on our patients’ lives and their families. We regret our program must take a temporary pause for us to achieve the infrastructure levels we need to deliver best-in-class care,” said Dr. Howell. “Investing and strengthening our program to better meet the needs of the region’s transplant community is a clinical imperative for our organization.”