FORT MYERS, Fla-- Nearly a year after voluntarily closing its kidney transplant program, Lee Health announced Monday its reopening the unit at Gulf Coast Medical Center. For now, Lee Health plans to only perform kidney transplants from deceased donors but said it hopes to reopen the living donor program in the near future.
"We do understand it was a big inconvenience," said program director Lynsey Biondi.
In 2015, patients on the transplant list were notified they were going to be transferred to other centers throughout the state after Lee Health was voluntarily shutting down both its living and deceased donor programs.
"Really the entire restructuring of the program is addressing the safety issues that were a concern," said Biondi.
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) approved Lee Heath's reactivation March 1st. Lee Health said 150 patients are currently being evaluated for a donated kidney and 21 people have been approved and are now just waiting for a match.
"I think it will be easier for our patients now to get transplanted and those who were waiting will be able to get transplanted now too," said Biondi.
For the past 3 years Southwest Florida has been an underserved area with the closest kidney transplant centers being in Miami and Tampa. But after more than 3 million dollars in improvements including a new surgical team and staff, Lee Health believes they will meet and maintain all its standards.
"So we have new epic medical record for the renal transplant program, we have a new facility for the clinic space, so we really did make tremendous investment not just in the programmatic but in the capital development for this facility," said Lee Health Chief Administration Officer Kris Fay.
Gulf Coast Medical Center is now 1 of 9 kidney transplant centers throughout Florida.