For people waiting for a kidney transplant, the physical and emotional cost is high. Patients with kidney failure must dialyze three days a week for four hours per treatment or utilize peritoneal dialysis overnight most nights of the week. 80% of dialysis patients are too sick to work. A kidney transplant gives dialysis patients a chance to live the life they had before their kidneys failed and provides an opportunity to once again be part of the workforce.
On March 18, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance that stated that transplants were essential and should not be postponed. However, there have been numerous stories of kidney transplants being cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and latest data from United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) shows that living donor transplants have essentially stopped. Living donor transplants made up about 24% of transplants in the United States last year. In 2019, there were 24,273 total transplants with 6,867 being from living donors.
Even though hospitals and transplant centers were told that transplants are essential, the organizations are feeling the same effects from shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 testing kits, and ventilators. For deceased donors, transplant surgeons must be sure that neither the donor nor the recipient of the organ has the coronavirus. There is a shortage of tests and testing times can be up to five days or longer. Quick test results are vital because the deceased donor must stay on a ventilator until the test comes back. In addition, shortages of ventilators must be addressed to ensure a deceased donor has access to that ventilator until the surgery.
As the need for hospital beds and intensive care units for patients with COVID-19 increases, the capacity for transplants decrease. With this is mind, we request that you contact your elected officials and urge them to increase the number of PPE, staff, and ventilators. Additionally, members of Congress should direct hospitals and transplant centers to prioritize delayed or postponed transplants when the COVID-19 crisis has ended.
Living donors have made the most altruistic decision to give part of themselves so another can live. In many cases, the donor wants the transplant recipient to live and thrive as much as the recipient. After months of evaluation to ensure the donor is a match, postponing the surgery is crushing. It means that the kidney patient must remain on dialysis. It can also be the difference between life and death. Any postponed transplants must be prioritized when hospitals are back to normal.
Contact your elected officials to request additional supplies and staff for hospitals and transplant centers and ask them to direct hospital to prioritize any delayed or postponed transplants.
Once you submit the form, your personalized message will be sent directly to your Members of Congress.
Please direct CMS to specifically state that living donations are essential and should not be postponed
Dear [Decision Maker],
Sincerely,[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP]