Kidney transplants at Gulf Coast Medical Center canceled until further notice

As the overhaul of the surgical program continues, Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, Fla., has suspended operations at the kidney transplant center at its Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, according to News-Press.

Transplants involving live kidney donors have been on hold at GCMC for nearly a year after a patient died while donating a kidney to his father. The center was placed on probation by United Network for Organ Sharing after the incident. Now, no kidney transplants — including those from recently deceased donors — will be performed at the hospital.

The decision to halt all kidney transplant operations will affect 259 patients on the kidney waiting list. Transplants are predicted to begin again in one to three months, but transplants involving live donors are not likely to resume until the fall at the earliest.

Lynsey Biondi, MD, the new director of the GCMC's transplant program, told News-Press, "I understand that it is an emotional thing, and we're sorry for that, but I honestly believe this is for the best interests of the patients, to keep them safe until we rebuild this team."

Some on the transplant list are reportedly being referred to other Florida transplant programs like those in Tampa and Miami, while others will have to wait out the shutdown. The hospital's kidney transplant center is the only one in its region, according to GCMC's website.

In accordance with the requirements set by regulators, Lee Memorial will now assume complete control of the transplant program. Previously, private practice physicians have collaborated with the health system to oversee surgeries in the center. Future operations at the new transplant center will feature only employees of the health system. The total cost of rebuilding the program will reportedly hit the $4 million mark.

Gordon Burtch, MD, the transplant center's former surgical director and one of the program's founding physicians, cut ties with the center two weeks ago. Dr. Burtch told News-Press, "I just don't have any faith in the direction that the program is far as I know, there's nobody in the Lee Memorial administrative leadership position that has any transplant experience. And yet, for the last year and a half, they've been making all the transplant decisions."

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