- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s lung transplant program has been put on probation by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that oversees American transplants.

UNOS said UPMC too frequently took lungs intended for one donor at its flagship hospital, UPMC Presbyterian, and gave them to another patient at the same hospital after the intended transplant patient was unable to receive it. That could occur, for example, if the intended patient’s condition became unstable awaiting a transplant.

UNOS expressed concern that, in some cases, those lungs might have gone to patients at other hospitals who were higher on an overall waiting list for the organs.

UPMC’s surgical director of lung transplantation, Dr. Jonathan D’Cunha, said the practice of using backup patients at the same hospital is approved by regional organ procurement groups and is meant to ensure the organs - which are in high demand - don’t go to waste.

“Our intention was clearly to help patients and not have any lungs go to waste,” D’Cunha said. He noted lungs can only be used for a few hours after arriving at the hospital and “decisions have to be made fairly quickly.”

But UNOS said the 14 times that occurred in 2013 and 2014 was “unusually high” and calls into question whether some of the lungs might have gone to needier patients.

UPMC can still conduct lung transplants, but must notify patients of the probation and operate under a corrective-action plan, D’Cunha said.

“While the institution has instituted a corrective action plan … the organization requires close monitoring as it continues its quality improvement process,” UNOS said in a statement. The probation under UNOS and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network took effect Monday.

D’Cunha attributed the issue to UPMC having a different interpretation of UNOS standards, but said the hospital has been 100 percent compliant since UNOS first raised the issue in September.

The hospital performed more than 80 lung transplants last year and hasn’t seen patient outcomes negatively affected since making the changes last fall.

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