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BUFFALO, NEW YORK; June 1, 2005 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently honored Erie County Medical Center-one of only 184 of the nation's hospitals-for substantially raising the organ donation rates of eligible donors who died in their facilities in 2004.

Executives of the hospitals, together with their partners in 49 organ procurement organizations (OPOs), were given the department's first annual Medals of Honor for Organ Donation by Elizabeth M. Duke, Ph.D., administrator of HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), during a ceremony on May 19, 2005, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hospitals and OPOs were cited for raising their donation rate to 75 percent of eligible donors. By contrast, the national average donation rate in all hospitals was 55 percent last year.

Fifty-eight U.S. OPOs coordinate organ procurement in designated service areas and work to preserve organs and arrange for their distribution according to national policies.

"The work of these hospitals and OPOs helped make possible 1,400 more life-saving transplants than occurred in 2003," Dr. Duke said. "Their achievements demonstrate that we can improve systems to boost donation rates and save many more lives in the future."

Hospitals with eight or more potential organ donors in any consecutive 12-month period between September 2003 and March 2005 were eligible for the Medals of Honor. A total of 532 hospitals had eight or more potential donors during the award timeframe.

Organ donation increased by an unprecedented 10.8 percent in 2004, reaching a new annual record of 27,033 transplant operations. Results so far for the first four months of 2005 are breaking each of the monthly records established in 2004.

The record increases in 2004 donation rates followed the launch in 2003 by HRSA officials of the Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative. That initiative brought together donation professionals and hospital leaders to identify and share best practices to maximize organ donation rates from people who die in their facilities. The aim was to achieve organ donation rates of at least 75 percent at participating hospitals. Staff from HRSA and the OPOs helped participating hospitals identify, adapt, test, and implement practices known to produce high donation rates.

With the encouraging results of the Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative, Dr. Duke used the award ceremony to announce the creation of a new Organ Transplantation Breakthrough Collaborative. The new Collaborative seeks to increase the number of transplant operations by encouraging medical professionals to adopt practices that allow them to maximize the number of transplantable organs from each donor. The aim is to raise the average number of organs collected from each donor to 3.75 over the course of the next 500 days. Currently the collection rate is about 3 per donor.

HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt urged large donor hospitals, organ procurement organizations and transplant programs to join the new Collaborative. "By working together to increase the number of transplantable organs from each donor, we can make the most of the Gift of Life offered by generous donor families."

Additional information on the Department's donation initiatives and the Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative is available at http://www.organdonor.gov.

The ECMC Corporation encompasses an advanced academic medical center with 550 inpatient beds and 156 skilled nursing home beds, on- and off-campus health centers, over 40 outpatient specialty care clinics, and the Erie County Home, a 586-bed skilled nursing facility. The medical center serves as the regional center for trauma, burn, rehabilitation, and a major teaching facility for the State University of New York at Buffalo. The ECMC Corporation is dedicated to being the medical center of choice through excellence in patient care and customer service.

NEWS CONTACT: Joe Cirillo: (716) 898-4300

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