courtesy of Corgan

Coronavirus

Donating Organs in DFW During COVID-19

How an idle facility is being used to continue urgent organ donations during the pandemic.

Dallas-based Southwest Transplant Alliance has partnered with the First Baptist Medical Center to support organ and tissue donation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership will keep vulnerable transplant patients out of the hospitals, allowing the facilities to free up resources for other patients, while allowing FBMC to be utilized at a time when its elective surgeries have been postponed. 

Southwest Transplant Alliance is transferring all organ and tissue donors from the hospitals to the FBMC surgical specialty hospital for donor management, organ allocation and the organ and tissue recovery process, creating a win for both organizations. 

“This partnership is a silver lining during an otherwise very dark time for the healthcare industry. It’s my hope that while hospitals focus on providing critical care, we are able to protect organ recovery professionals, transplant teams and the very precious gift of life that potential organ and tissue donors can provide,” said President and CEO of Southwest Transplant Alliance Patti Niles via release. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on the number of organ transplants in North Texas. With people staying home, there have been fewer traumatic accidents that often result in organ donation, which is a great thing in itself, but the consequence of that means the 10,000 people waiting for transplants in Texas are without the organs they need.

For Dallas-based Southwest Transplant Alliance, an organization that spans Texarkana to El Paso, they have seen a 50 percent drop in organ donations in the month of April, according to CEO Patti Niles.

In addition, rural hospitals with potential donors are asking Dallas-based removal teams to not come into their hospital out of fear they may bring the virus with them. In addition, extraction teams are weary about heading into hot spots like New York or Louisiana to remove organs. Faced with those obstacles, the group made the quick decision to find a new location for its organ donations.

FBMC is a specialty surgery center near STA’s current offices that has been unable to perform the elective surgeries that make up most of its business. But the facility stepped up to meet the need.

“Our primary mission is to provide the highest standards of care possible to the community, and this partnership with Southwest Transplant Alliance allows us to continue that mission,” said CEO Harold Gaskill, MD of First Baptist Medical Center via release. 

For precautionary purposes, organs are not being recovered from those who died or are suspected to have died from COVID-19, but STA has found a way to test potential donors and get results back in just six hours, which is essential if the organs are to be removed in a timely manner.

Despite the setbacks, STA implemented the new plan in under a week. The centralized donor location at FBMC is a blessing in disguise, as it already has an operating room and equipment that are needed to make the removals, which are then sent to hospitals where the recipients will receive them. It will serve well to prepare removal teams to work in the unique facility STA is building for the exact purpose FBMC is being used for now. “It is the perfect practice to set up all of our processes in three months.”

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