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In the last year, we’ve written a few posts about Michael and Christina. Almost a year ago, Michael learned that a kidney transplant was his best hope for survival. He had undergone dialysis for months before learning that his girlfriend could donate one of her kidneys. Little did he know that a series of surgical errors would further threaten his life instead of offering him the lifeline he needed.
On Jan. 26, Christina had blood work done at a Pittsburgh hospital, and on March 24 she received a letter saying she was approved to donate one of her kidneys to her life-partner, Michael. On May 6 — a full month after the kidney transplant was complete — the hospital informed Christina that she had hepatitis C.
The blood tests that were completed on Jan. 26 revealed that Christina had hepatitis C, but several doctors and nurses at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center failed to communicate that information. Moreover, when a surgeon finally informed Christina that she had hepatitis C, he suggested that she did not need to tell Michael about the infection.
Thankfully, the transplant program at UPMC is now on probation. The federal Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network placed the program on probation, stating, “The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has identified a need for process improvement in communicating key clinical information among transplant staff members.”
According to OPTN, probation is the second most severe punishment from the OPTN, and it is reserved for cases that demonstrate a “serious lapse in patient safety or quality of care,” which certainly describes the tragic situation Michael and Christina were placed in.
The probation is a good first step toward ensuring that other innocent patients are not wrongly infected with diseases. However, the medical negligence — and the subsequent probation — could have been avoided entirely. With so many inherent dangers with transplants and surgery, it is imperative that health care professionals do everything possible to ensure the safety of innocent and vulnerable patients.
What will it take for that to happen? As long as we keep hearing stories about patients like Michael and Christina, it is obvious that surgeons, doctors and nurses are not doing enough to prioritize patient safety.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Feds pace UPMC transplant program on probation,” Sean D. Hamill, Nov. 15, 2011