Following a review of patient volumes and required resources, MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center announced it will voluntarily close its kidney and pancreas transplant program, effective Oct. 1. 

The health system had suspended the program in May to evaluate whether it would continue; it had been conducting about 30 transplants per year. The decision to end the program was “extremely difficult,” MercyOne Central Iowa President Karl Keeler said in a statement. 

“We feel this decision is in the best interest of our community, as central Iowans will still have access to transplant medicine, and this allows us to consider areas in which to invest where community needs are not being met,” he said. 

MercyOne Des Moines will continue to collaborate with Iowa Methodist Transplant Center of Des Moines to meet patient needs during the closure. Iowa Methodist has agreed to evaluate MercyOne Des Moines’ actively listed patients for placement. All patients on the MercyOne Des Moines wait list have been placed or given information to make their care decisions. 

There were 138 patients in the process of being evaluated for a transplant and 79 other patients on the waiting list for a kidney or pancreas who are affected, according to MercyOne spokesman Gregg Lagan. Of those patients, 124 were referred to UnityPoint Health's transplant program, while the remainder were referred to other regional hospitals. 

For transplant recipients whose care is currently being followed at MercyOne Des Moines, a transplant coordinator will assist them in transitioning their care to another transplant center or nephrologist of their choosing. MercyOne Des Moines will also work with other transplant centers to provide any records pertaining to their current care.

Four MercyOne employees of the transplant center are affected by the closure; the health system said it is working with those individuals on other employment options. 

The program did its first transplant in 1986.


Despite the program closure, officials said MercyOne Des Moines will continue to have an important role in helping with organ donation. The Iowa Donor Network will still send teams of surgeons to MercyOne Des Moines and West Des Moines Medical Centers for organ, tissue and eye donation services, as well as coordinate trips by other U.S. transplant programs to MercyOne medical centers for organ recovery.