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Iowa Donor Network earns top-tier status for donation, transplant performance
Iowa’s transplant waitlist is at 653 — with 4 waitlist deaths a month
For the third straight year, the North Liberty-based Iowa Donor Network has been designated a “tier 1 organ procurement organization” — placing it among just 15 of 56 such organizations nationally to achieve the top designation.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services categorize organ procurement organizations into three tiers based on performance. The top tier is reserved for networks achieving donation and transplant performance rates in the top 25 percent.
The updated categorizations — based on most-recent cause-of-death data in 2021 — put 15 organizations in tier 1, 18 in tier 2, and 24 in tier 3.
In a statement, Iowa Donor Network CEO Suzanne Conrad said maintaining tier 1 status “requires dedication to our mission, collaboration with our health care partners, and a commitment to continuous improvement.”
“I am incredibly thankful for the generosity of our donors and donor families and proud of our team members who work tirelessly to transform lives through organ and tissue donation,” Conrad said. “I am also deeply grateful to our health care partners who collaborate with us to maximize every donation opportunity.”
Iowa Donor Network, officially incorporated in 1994, is seeking out “new and innovative strategies that allow us to save more lives,” Conrad said. The organization’s 2022 impact report shows it worked with 115 organ donors and 979 tissue donors that year, facilitating 347 organ transplants.
Nationally, a record 42,800 organs were transplanted in 2022. Still, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported the U.S. organ transplant waitlist as of April 1 was at 103,979. And an average 31 Americans died daily in 2021 because they didn’t get a transplant they needed.
Specific to kidney needs, the annual cost to Medicare for dialysis is $36 billion.
The fact that most of the country’s organ procurement organizations are failing to meet tier 1 standards leads to “thousands of unnecessary deaths each year, which disproportionately harm patients of color,” according to CMS.
The State of Iowa’s transplant waitlist right now sits at 653 — with four waitlist deaths a month — while some of the larger tier 3 states like California report 20,222 people on the waitlist, with 167 dying every month.
Officials with the Iowa Donor Network said they along with colleagues in the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations have set a national goal of reaching 50,000 transplants a year by 2026.
“Together, we have made great strides toward reducing the transplant waiting list, but there are still more than 100,000 people in the United States waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, including 600 in Iowa,” according to the Iowa Donor Network.
How to Help?
Iowans can help the Iowa Donor Network save lives by registering as organ and tissue donors — and anyone can register, regardless of age or medical history. To join the donor registry or learn more, visit https://www.iowadonornetwork.org/.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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