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Penn State Health discontinues kidney and liver transplant programs, citing ‘ongoing challenges’ and federal scrutiny

FILE - Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center {Photo Provided By Penn State Health}
Photo Provided By Penn State Health
FILE - Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State Health will discontinue its troubled liver and kidney transplant programs amid scrutiny from federal regulators. The move comes only months after the programs relaunched following serious disciplinary sanctions and what health system leaders described as an extensive effort to rebuild.

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

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

In September 2022, a national oversight group declared the hospital a “member not in good standing” after flagging problems with kidney and liver transplants — the most serious disciplinary action taken against a hospital in more than 15 years.

Afterward, Penn State Health leaders pledged to rebuild. The health system hired new surgeons, updated its equipment, and promised to overhaul its internal operations.

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

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

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

The move does not affect Penn State Health’s heart, stem cell, and bone marrow transplant programs, according to the spokesperson.

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

The spokesperson said staff are helping waitlisted kidney and liver transplant patients transfer to other transplant centers. Patients who have already received an organ transplant, or who are managing kidney or liver diseases but who do not need a transplant, can continue to receive care in Hershey.

Wyatt Massey investigates how Penn State University operates, including its influence in the region and state.