U.S. begins overhauling organ transplant system

Tri-State organ recipients open up about changes to organ donation system
U.S. begins overhauling organ transplant system
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 11:08 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - On Wednesday, the Biden Administration announced plans to modernize the country’s organ donation system.

The Health Resources and Services Administration, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, reports that over 6,000 people die each year on an organ transplant waitlist.

The administration announced that it’s looking to decrease those numbers by busting apart the duties of the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, a non-profit that previously oversaw all organ donation in the nation.

The government announced it would put those jobs out to bid to encourage competition and foster the best possible improvements.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced several actions:

  • Data dashboards detailing individual transplant center and organ procurement organization data on organ retrieval, waitlist outcomes, and transplants, and demographic data on organ donation and transplant;
  • Modernization of the OPTN IT system in line with industry-leading standards, improving OPTN governance, and increasing transparency and accountability in the system to better serve the needs of patients and families;
  • HRSA’s intent to issue contract solicitations for multiple awards to manage the OPTN in order to foster competition and ensure OPTN Board of Directors’ independence;
  • The President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget proposal to more than double investment in organ procurement and transplantation with a $36 million increase over Fiscal Year 2023 for a total of $67 million; and,
  • A request to Congress included in the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget to update the nearly 40-year-old National Organ Transplant Act to take actions such as:
    • Removing the appropriations cap on the OPTN contract(s) to allow HRSA to better allocate resources and,
    • Expanding the pool of eligible contract entities to enhance performance and innovation through increased competition.

In Evansville, Eric Cox, who received a double lung transplant in 2019, spoke with 14 News about the changes. He said in particular for many people, having access to transparent, up-to-date data about transplant centers is invaluable.

“The more options you have, and some of the people that have come in and spoken to [our] support group have said that you don’t have to lock yourself into one specific hospital,” he explained. “[You should] try to get on as many lists as possible.”

The HRSA has already created a dashboard for organ donation and transplantation on its website.