ASTS is saddened to learn of a helicopter crash that occurred Friday afternoon near the helipad on top of Keck Hospital of USC.
The helicopter was transporting a heart to be transplanted into a patient at Keck. According to fire officials, a pilot was hospitalized with minor injuries, while the two other people onboard had no medical complaints and declined treatment from paramedics. Officials with Keck Hospital of USC confirmed nobody around or inside the hospital was injured and patient care was not disrupted.
The heart was transplanted into a patient a couple of hours after the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are both investigating the crash.
Friday’s crash reminds us of a tragic accident on June 6, 2007, in which an organ recovery team from the University of Michigan lost their lives in a fixed wing jet crash on a double lung recovery mission. As the transplant community continues to experience these events, we continue to lack national standards for air and ground transportation for protecting the safety of organ recovery personnel.
In July 2019, ASTS held a Safety and Transportation Summit to address these ongoing concerns. Leaders from the Association of Organ Procurement Organization (AOPO) and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) discussed:
- changes to the organ allocation system, with broader sharing likely to increase the need for organ transportation, particularly air transport;
- challenges in implementing safety strategies;
- priorities in developing safety and travel standards for recovery teams both on the ground and in the air;
- protocols that are needed to meet best practices in the industry; and
- development of an ASTS travel accident insurance to cover member surgeons during an organ recovery mission.
ASTS has also begun work on a new initiative, the Organ Recovery Collaborative Network (ORCN), a special ASTS Task Force focusing on:
- training and quality to identify systemwide quality improvement measures,
- technology and implementation to optimize recovery processes, and
- finance and efficiency to consider future financial challenges.
As we continue to progress these initiatives, it is imperative we shift our objective toward shipping organs instead of flying health care professionals. With this mission in mind, ASTS will continue to work diligently to develop safety and travel standards and protect our members and all organ recovery teams.