The Nevada Donor Network’s eye bank has lost its accreditation to process and distribute eye tissue after identifying “process gaps” in its documentation practices.
The network, a nonprofit organ procurement organization that also facilitates tissue and cornea donation statewide, says it detected the lapses in April and suspended its eye bank operations.
Then, during an inspection of the eye bank and a review in June, the Eye Bank Association of America identified “issues that caused us to withdraw our accreditation,” said Kevin Corcoran, CEO of the nonprofit organization that accredits the nation’s eye banks.
Corcoran, who said the findings of the association’s inspection are confidential, added, “I can tell you there were documentation issues, paperwork issues, and they (the Nevada Donor Network) brought the issues to our attention” as required by the association’s rules.
No adverse outcomes
He declined to say whether the documentation issues could have affected the health or safety of tissue recipients, but said that no adverse outcomes such as infection have been identified. In the past several years, Corcoran said that only three of the association’s approximate 75 eye banks had lost their accreditation.
In a written statement to the Review-Journal, the Nevada Donor Network said, “As a testament to our commitment to providing ocular tissue of the highest quality and safety standards, Nevada Donor Network has temporarily paused operations within our eye bank.
“After internally identifying and self-reporting process gaps, we have taken the necessary steps to retrain staff and replace leadership while working collaboratively with regulatory agencies to satisfy improvement requirements.”
Plan to resume operations
The organization, which was founded in 1987, intends to resume operations later this month “under a new caliber of leadership for our eye bank.”
The eye bank is temporarily importing ocular tissue from its eye bank partners to meet the needs of the community.
“We have applied for and scheduled a re-accreditation inspection in mid-September, allowing us the opportunity to maximize quality and safety on behalf of the heroic donors, courageous families, and grateful recipients we serve,” the statement said.
Corcoran said that an eye bank is not required to be accredited to operate, though only one of the association’s members has not been accredited. Association member eye banks provided more than 84,000 corneas for transplant in 2017.
Eye surgeon not surprised
When told that the eye bank had suspended operations, Las Vegas eye surgeon Dr. Jack Abrams said he wasn’t surprised.
He said he stopped using the eye bank for tissue several months ago and turned to a national company because “the quality of tissue they were sending us was inadequate.” In one case, he said, he was forced to cancel a surgery.
Abrams, who performs laser corneal transplants, said that corneal tissue is prepared with a laser prior to use. “The laser has to be done accurately for us to get a tissue that’s appropriate for us to use on patients,” he said. But on two or three occasions, cuts were not adequately symmetrical.
He said he repeatedly asked the Nevada Donor Network for an explanation, and was told only “we’ll do better.”
But Corcoran praised recent steps taken by the organization.
“I think they’ve been very responsible in the way they’ve responded to the issues that came up,” he said.