Several factors to blame for temporary pause in kidney transplant program: AHS

Click to play video: 'Kidney Paired Donation Program on pause in northern Alberta'
Kidney Paired Donation Program on pause in northern Alberta
Some people needing a kidney transplant in northern Alberta have hit a hurdle and may have to wait longer. The province's participation in a national program that helps find matching donors was force to be paused. Sarah Komadina explains why – Jan 17, 2024

Alberta Health Services (AHS) says a number of factors have contributed to a temporary pause in the Kidney Paired Donation Program (KPD).

AHS cited a lack of operating room capacity, a shortage of anesthesiologists at the University of Alberta Hospital (UAH) along with a backlog of local and national pairs waiting on Edmonton’s KPD list, all as contributing factors.

AHS said, as a result, the Northern Alberta Transplant program made the decision to temporarily pause participation with the national Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program February 2024 match cycle run.

A spokesperson with AHS stressed the change will only affect the Northern Alberta Transplant Program, not the southern Alberta program in Calgary and added AHS continues to provide other organ and tissue donation and transplant services.

The KPD program matches donor-recipient pairs who are incompatible and unable to donate directly to one another. Those pairs then are registered in the KPD national program in hopes of finding a suitable match with other pairs across the country. A “match cycle” takes place every three months.

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Sean Delaney has been through two transplants and even spent time on dialysis. He said the news that patients will have to wait longer is tough to take. “It can be very emotionally draining. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster to be waiting and wondering, ‘Do I have a donor? Do I not have a donor?'”

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“It’s going to be tough for them to know that they’re on hold for six months because this kidney paired program only runs three times a year,” Delaney said of friends on the waiting list. “It’s tough on the donor as well, because they have to put their life, career on hold.”

“I have a couple of friends who are going to be directly impacted– because I’m a transplant patient myself I’m fairly well connected in the community. There are some specific faces that came to mind and I reached out to them, to let them know I’m thinking about them.”

“For the February run, AHS’ Northern Alberta Transplant program will not be involved in any new matches within the KPD program. AHS will participate in the June 2024 run,” an AHS spokesperson said.

“We acknowledge the stress and anxiety this decision may cause for donors, recipients and family members. Patients waiting for a kidney transplant will remain on the list for deceased organ donations, and other living donor programs.”

AHS said the temporary pause will not impact recipients who have already been matched. Those surgeries will proceed and living donors will continue to be accepted into the living donor programs, including KPD.

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“[A transplant is] absolutely life changing,” Delaney said. “I’m getting on a plane and heading for Mexico– something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing while I was on dialysis. Your ability to plan more than three days in advance is very, very different. The transplant is not a cure but it’s absolutely life changing for us.”

AHS said it is experiencing recruitment challenges across the province.

“We are actively working to recruit health-care professionals. This is not unique to Alberta and is being experienced nationally and internationally. We are working hard to reduce workforce gaps in anesthesia and other areas, through aggressive recruitment strategies, and planned optimization work through the Alberta Surgical Initiative.”

Click to play video: 'Family of Alberta kidney transplant candidate raises concerns over donor delays'
Family of Alberta kidney transplant candidate raises concerns over donor delays

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