Wrong patient receives kidney transplant at New Jersey hospital

CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW/CNN) - A hospital in New Jersey has admitted to a life-threatening mistake: a patient received a kidney transplant meant for a patient who was higher on the waiting list.

The Virtua Health hospital system says it has “instituted additional measures and educational reinforcement to help ensure this does not happen again.” (Source: KYW/CNN)

Two patients with the same name and similar ages were waiting for a kidney transplant at the Lourdes Hospital Transplant Center in Camden, N.J. Last Monday, the hospital performed the procedure on the wrong patient.

The day after the successful transplant, a staff member realized the mistake, according to Virtua Health, under whose network the hospital falls. The patient who did not receive the kidney was higher on the priority list than the one who did.

“We have a profound responsibility to people who literally place their lives in our hands. Mistakes of this magnitude are rare, and despite the unusual circumstances of similar patient identities, additional verification would have prevented this error,” said Dr. Reginald Blaber, Virtua executive vice president and chief clinical officer, in a statement.

Virtua apologized to the patient who was supposed to receive the kidney, with the medical director and transplant coordinator paying them a personal visit. That patient ended up undergoing a successful transplant Sunday and is doing well.

The hospital system would not say which staff member(s) were to blame for the mistake but says it has “instituted additional measures and educational reinforcement to help ensure this does not happen again.”

Patient advocates say verifying a patient’s identity before surgery is basic medical practice.

"We would want to confirm the patient’s name, first and last. We would want to confirm the patient’s date of birth, and… check their medical record to assure that a number of criteria are satisfied to assure we have the right patient,” said Lawrence Muscarella of LFM Healthcare Solutions.

Virtua says it voluntarily reported the incident to the New Jersey Health Department.

Experts say the mistake is a bad look for the hospital and may lead to a malpractice suit, but admitting to it may save lives in the future by serving as a wake-up call to healthcare providers everywhere.

“Being transparent like this reduces the likelihood of the next medical error ever happening again,” Muscarella said.

Copyright 2019 KYW, LFM Healthcare Solutions via CNN. All rights reserved.

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