Updated: October 9, 2020
CONTACT: Jennifer Jenks
AOPO Response to The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) Article:
Heartless: Organ Donation Contractors Lobby Against a Popular Health Care Initiative While Pocketing Pandemic Relief Loans (October 5, 2020)
MCLEAN, VA., October 6, 2020 – The Association for Organ Procurement Organizations is disappointed that the Project on Government Oversight chose to take a one-sided approach to reporting on proposed changes to organ donation, rather than providing its readers with a balanced account of the issue. Our organization and several of our member OPOs provided detailed and thoughtful responses to journalist Adam Zagorin in a good faith effort to explain our concerns about the proposed rule change and the circumstances regarding PPP funding. However, the very important points made in these statements were either significantly edited down or completely ignored. Subsequently, the reader was done a disservice in not being informed that:
- OPOs fully support – and have long supported – the creation of new and improved metrics to assess our performance. Our participation in the proposed rule change process is not to “block” new metrics, as reported, but rather to ensure the methodology used is statistically sound and grounded in accurate, timely, verifiable, and complete source data.
- The rule change is not merely an issue for OPOs. Many Congresspeople, transplant surgeons, donor hospitals, donor families, and Americans waiting on the transplant list have raised legitimate concerns with CMS that the proposed rule change could unintentionally disrupt the organ donation and transplant system and inadvertently cost lives. To be balanced, the article should have given equal space to their concerns.
- The significant reforms and innovations in the organ donation and transplant system for the past 40 years have been led by OPOs, from within. These constant improvements have resulted in the U.S. organ donation and transplant system being one of the best in the world. The article did not explore what could happen to that status should the rule change be passed with the wrong metric.
- Like non-profits across the U.S., OPOs chose to borrow PPP funds to ensure that their frontline workers could continue saving lives at a time when both the severity and duration of the pandemic were unknown. At the time these decisions were made, critical issues created by the pandemic had impacted OPOs and led to increased costs and lost revenue associated with their mission. So out of necessity and an abundance of caution to ensure this life-saving mission, many made the difficult decision to apply for PPP funds.
- Each of the OPOs cited in your article to have received PPP loans were approved for them in the early days of the pandemic, but either chose to not accept the loans or voluntarily made the decision to return the funds to the U.S. government, with interest. None requested loan forgiveness. It was good financial planning on the part of OPOs, and they decided to return the funds when they determined they did not need them.
OPO professionals work around the clock to ensure that American lives are saved through organ donation and transplant each day. Many of these professionals have devoted their entire careers to the field of organ donation. More than anyone, we want to see more lives saved through our work, and we have pursued innovations and improvements for years to make that possible.
The organ donation and transplant process is a highly collaborative and intricate system, and any changes must be carefully considered so as not to endanger lives. It is the responsibility of the OPO community, as stewards of the gift of life, to do everything possible to ensure sound rule making and governance of our profession. We owe this to the donor families we support and to the Americans who are ultimately the recipients of their most precious gifts.
The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) is the non-profit organization recognized as the national representative of the 58 federally designated Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) responsible for facilitating the organ, eye, and tissue donation process.