Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Penn State Health is ending kidney and liver transplant programs, citing “ongoing challenges” and federal oversight

By Vaseline May30,2024
Penn State Health is ending kidney and liver transplant programs, citing “ongoing challenges” and federal oversight

by Wyatt Massey of Spotlight PA State College and Charlotte Keith of Spotlight PA

Photo courtesy of Penn State Health

The decision casts doubt on the success of the health care system’s extensive efforts to rebuild its programs.

This story was produced by the State College Regional Office of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom dedicated to investigative and public service journalism for Pennsylvania. Sign up for our north-central Pa. newsletter, Talk of the Town, at

Penn State Health will shut down its troubled liver and kidney transplant programs under the watch of federal regulators. The move comes just months after the programs restarted following serious disciplinary sanctions and what health care system leaders described as an extensive rebuilding effort.

In recent weeks, the health care system stopped performing liver and kidney transplants at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center following renewed scrutiny from federal regulators over concerns about clinical processes and institutional culture.

The abdominal transplant program has been plagued with problems for years.

In September 2022, a national oversight group declared the hospital a “member in bad standing” after noticing problems with kidney and liver transplants – the most serious disciplinary action taken against a hospital in more than fifteen years.

Then Penn State Health leaders vowed to rebuild the country. The health care system hired new surgeons, modernized equipment and committed to overhauling internal operations.

“This was not an easy decision because we know our community depends on us to provide the health care services they need and want us to provide,” a Penn State Health spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.

But during conversations with regulators and an internal review, “it became clear to us that the ongoing challenges we have faced in keeping the programs running make closing them the appropriate course of action at this time,” the spokesperson said.

The closure comes less than six months after the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, the national regulatory body, restored the hospital’s status as a member in good standing, saying it had addressed the previous problems.

According to the spokesperson, the measure will not affect Penn State Health’s heart, stem cell and bone marrow transplant programs.

The medical center suspended liver transplants in late April and weeks later also suspended kidney transplants.

The spokesperson said staff helps transfer kidney and liver transplant patients on the waiting list to other transplant centers. Patients who have already undergone an organ transplant, or who have kidney or liver disease but do not require a transplant, can continue to receive care in Hershey.

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