Memorial Hermann confirms ‘inappropriate changes’ were made before transplant programs were suspended

HOUSTONMemorial Hermann hospital confirms “inappropriate changes” were made to the donor acceptance criteria within the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant information database by a single physician for some patients awaiting a liver transplant.

The hospital confirmed the information after a New York Times report on accusations that Dr. J. Steve Bynon Jr. was “secretly” altering transplant databases, with the intention of making some of his patients ineligible for liver transplants. The statement Tuesday does not mention Dr. Bynon by name.

“Upon learning of this inappropriate activity, we immediately began an investigation, and chose to voluntarily inactivate our liver transplant program. These inappropriate changes to the donor acceptance criteria are limited to the liver transplant program and did not impact any other transplant program. However, because there is a shared leadership structure over both the liver and kidney/pancreas transplant programs, we made the very difficult decision to voluntarily inactivate the kidney/pancreas transplant program as we evaluate a new physician leadership structure,” a statement from the hospital said in part.

Memorial Hermann says they are working with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston) to make the necessary changes that will allow for the quick reactivation of the kidney/pancreas transplant program under a different physician leadership structure. The hospital is hopeful the kidney/pancreas transplant program will reopen in the near future.

“Memorial Hermann has voluntarily inactivated the liver transplant program. At this time, there is no timeframe for the reopening of this program. All liver transplant patients have been transferred to another transplant program. The vast majority of patients in the kidney/pancreas transplant program have opted to remain with us. Sixty (60) kidney patients are in the process of actively being transferred to another transplant program,” the hospital said.

The hospital says they have taken several communication and outreach measures to reach each patient individually. Below is what the hospital says they are doing.

  • Patients have been individually contacted by a transplant care coordinator to review ongoing care options, including a seamless transition to another transplant program, where necessary. Patients are also provided the option to remain with our transplant program once the voluntary inactivation is lifted.
  • We continue to reach out to patients individually, both to follow-up and to let them know their care team is available.

“The voluntarily inactivation applies only to new kidney/pancreas and liver transplant surgeries and new patient evaluations. Those already on the waitlist will not lose any time,” Memorial Hermann said. “Our priority is to make this as seamless as possible for patients. With this in mind, we have streamlined necessary process in collaboration with local transplant programs. We are also expediting the necessary records. The timing is dependent and varies by each patient’s condition. For highly acute patients, we immediately expedited transfer to another transplant hospital. We regularly monitor all patients’ conditions and are able to transfer them to another transplant hospital immediately, as necessary.”

Memorial Hermann says their investigation is still ongoing.

KPRC 2 Reporter Corley Peel spoke with Lee Edlund who is a dialysis social worker. He has been helping some of Memorial Hermann’s kidney patients get transferred. He also said the patients will not have to start from the bottom of the list once they are transferred to new hospitals.

“They’re not going to have to start all the way over as far as being on the transplant list, but they may have to start over a lot of the testing that they’ve already done. Which includes dental exams, cardiology testing, mammograms and things of that nature,” said Edlund.

Edlund said re-testing can cost patients more time and money. He said patients are signed up on the United Network for Organ Sharing list. Memorial Hermann, Houston Methodist and St. Lukes are all a part of that network.

“Because it’s the UNOS organ sharing network, the hospitals all share a list so wherever you are on that list, if you go to another hospital, more than likely you’re still going to remain in the same spot on the list. The ranking on the list is compiled of many factors, including your age, including how long you’ve been on dialysis, how compliant you are with your Dialysis treatment and many other factors,” said Edlund.

About the Author

Christian Terry covered digital news in Tyler and Wichita Falls before returning to the Houston area where he grew up. He is passionate about weather and the outdoors and often spends his days off on the water fishing.

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