HRSA proposes overhaul of organ procurement and transplant network

Federal regulators have proposed a major change in the distribution of human organs for transplantation.

The Health Resources and Services Administration outlined plans on Wednesday to reorganize the federal organ procurement and transplant network, which is operated by the Unified Organ Sharing Network, also known as UNOS. The policy will invite other organizations to participate in the organ system, ending UNOS’s virtual monopoly.

Having multiple contractors will strengthen the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network and “encourage competition,” HRSA said in a press release. [Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network]. The individuals and families who depend on this life-saving work deserve no less,” HRSA Administrator Carol Johnson said in a press release.

UNOS approved this proposal. “UNOS supports HRSA’s plan to carry out additional reforms in the national system of organ donation and transplantation. We are also united with HRSA in our shared goal of providing as many organ donations as possible to patients in need while increasing accountability, transparency and oversight.” the non-profit organization said in a statement. “We welcome a competitive and open bidding process for the next [Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network] contract to advance our efforts to save as many lives as possible in the most equitable way possible. We believe that we have the experience and knowledge necessary to serve the best patients in the country and implement the initiatives proposed by HRSA.”

President Joe Biden has made organ transplants a priority in his fiscal year 2024 budget request, which asks Congress to nearly double the amount the US spends on the system, to $67 million. The White House also suggested that legislators update the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 to remove a cap on the program’s budget. The Biden administration’s proposals follow a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ruling issued in 2020 under President Donald Trump that was designed to increase the availability of organs for transplants.

More than 42,800 organ transplants were performed in the US last year, according to UNOS. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network, there are currently about 104,000 people on the organ waiting list.

How this initiative will impact transplant and donation hospitals is not known without more information from HRSA, said Nancy Foster, vice president of quality policy and patient safety for the American Hospital Association. HRSA appears to have heeded calls from Congress and other organizations to share organ allocation duties among multiple organizations, rather than relying solely on UNOS, she said.

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