Hospital opens transplant clinic

Dale Barnes and Gloria Bosh won’t miss their two hour drives to Pittsburgh.

The Duncansville residents are thrilled about the recent opening of UPMC Altoona’s new Transplant Clinic at Station Medical Center.

“It was inconveniencing people. It is great for everybody to be able to come to Altoona,” said Barnes, 59, who received a new liver Feb. 10 and is on the transplant waiting list for a new kidney. While he waits, he needs four hours of dialysis Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

“I was very happy to know they now have a clinic here. I did a happy dance. This is very convenient,” said Bosh, 72, who underwent her first kidney transplant in May 1993. When that kidney failed, she faced dialysis for 18 months until her second kidney transplant on May 30, 2000, when she received two kidneys.

The opening of the clinic saves time and money for the nearly 200 people from this region who are waiting for, or who have had, a transplant, said UPMC Altoona President Jerry Murray.

“On July 1, 2013, people didn’t understand what it meant to the region when we announced our affiliation with UPMC. We talked about bringing a new era of patient care to central Pennsylvania. UPMC is completely committed to the area to enhance medical facilities and services,” Murray said. “This clinic just scratches the surface of what is to come. Health care in Altoona has some exciting days to come.”

Ideally, patients will be evaluated in Altoona before and after surgery, but have the actual transplant in Pittsburgh. The clinic sees kidney and pancreas transplant patients, evaluates potential live donor kidney patients and plans to add liver patients in the fall.

The clinic is being held once a month and likely will be expanded to every two weeks soon, said Dr. Amit Tevar, surgical director of UPMC kidney and pancreas transplantation.

The transplant team consists of six surgeons, six nephrologists (physicians who specialize in kidney disorders), a patient care technician, a nurse coordinator and a social worker. Staff members take turns coming to Altoona.

The team that works here works on patients in Pittsburgh. Patients get evaluated the same here as they do in Pittsburgh, Tevar said.

“Our goal is to offer our patients the best care possible in the most efficient way possible. We want to serve the people of this region. We can make it simple by bringing the service to Altoona,” Tevar said.

At the clinic, patients receive education about the transplant process and are scheduled for testing. UPMC Altoona at Station Medical Center offers what they need, including CT scans, bloodwork and echocardiograms. They then visit with different members of the transplant team for evaluation. A staff member escorts patients through each step in the evaluation.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.