HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Even if another hospital takes up where Hawaii Medical Center left off, organ transplant patients will have to wait.
"It's my understanding that it could be as soon as three months or as long as one year," said Glen Hayashida, chief executive officer of the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii.
A new transplant center would have to meet strict licensing requirements set by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). It manages the nation's organ transplant system.
"We need to have transplant surgeons who are available 24-7. We need to have nephrologists. We need to have cardiologists. We need to have an operating room that's available for transplant procedures," transplant surgeon Dr. Whitney Limm said.
"We're not talking about building out additional space, but really looking at their existing space and having to divide that among all the other services they currently offer," Hayashida said.
HMC East housed Hawaii's only organ transplant center. It performed about 70 transplants a year. While they wait, Hawaii patients can sign up on mainland waiting lists. The closest state is California, where there are 21 transplant centers.
"It's the same first-come first-serve approach," Limm said. "They have to sign up and they'll be placed at the bottom of the list. Then there's the logistical issue, and the cost of traveling to the mainland."
"On top of that is really being in a strange city at a time where they're going to be under a lot of stress," Hayashida said. "They're not going to have a lot of family around them."
There are 420 patients on Hawaii's kidney transplant waiting list, and 2,900 people on dialysis.
Transplant surgeons feel the sooner another hospital steps in to fill HMC's void, the better.