LAS VEGAS (FOX5) – A proposal to change how kidneys and pancreas organs are distributed for transplant could up the wait time for Nevadans by a decade.
The proposed guidelines by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network “would replace local donation service area and regional boundaries with a 500 nautical mile circle around the donor hospital.”
"It looks terrible. It's awful for patients,” said Dr. John Ham, UMC’s Medical Director of Nevada’s only transplant program, which exclusively includes kidneys. "In its current state it's 2.5 miles for most of our organs [changing] to 500 nautical miles. So most of our organs are transplanted by car. ... and in the future most will be transplanted by plane."
As it stand in Nevada, the 200 people on the transplant list have preference to kidneys donated in the area. With this change, kidneys donated in the state could fly to areas with much longer wait lists like California and as far as Idaho, Arizona and Oregon.
"What that really does for our patients is it changes the waiting time of transplant for the patient from 1.5 to 3 years out to 7 to 8 to 10 years,” Ham said.
Angela Southern is one of the 200 people on the kidney transplant list. She said she supports the idea of helping areas with longer wait lists but isn’t sure this is the correct route.
"I mean the thought of helping those people because their wait list is so long ... it's a beautiful thing,” Southern said. “But I don't see how they're going to do this when you got all these states that are so near. And now you've got to mix these numbers together? How are you going to mix these numbers together with whose next in line? Who has been on there the longest?"
Ham said the answer to the kidney shortage isn’t black and white, but people can help by signing up to be a donor or seeing if they are a match.
"We need to make sure that everyone is optimally having the opportunity to donate,” he said.