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Via Christi won’t restart kidney transplant program

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, May 2, 2014, at 3:03 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 11, 2014, at 7:33 a.m.

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Nearly two years after it voluntarily suspended its kidney transplant program, Via Christi has decided to discontinue plans to restart the program.

The main reason for the decision was that Via Christi officials said they decided to focus more on population health, prevention and other earlier interventions for patients.

“You can’t do everything, so you come down to these hard choices,” said Carl Rider, chief clinical administrative officer for Via Christi Hospitals Wichita.

“Every organization only has so much capital, so when you’re weighing alternatives – Do I invest in a transplant program that will affect a very small number of people when there are three transplant centers within two to three hours? Or do we invest more in primary care facilities, behavioral health services that affect a much greater number in the population? – So it’s that sort of strategic tipping point that we have reached.”

Via Christi is working with the remaining 27 patients in the program to connect with other programs in Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

So far, hospital officials said they have helped 63 patients transfer to other centers.

The roughly 10 staff members who were a part of the program will likely stay in other positions at Via Christi.

Program suspended

The kidney transplant program was originally started in 1981 and had performed more than 1,100 transplants.

Via Christi suspended the program in May 2012 after four patients who had received transplants in the previous 12 months died within a three-week period and another suffered kidney failure but lived.

Hospital officials said an investigation of the deaths showed no common threads.

The next month, the two transplant surgeons, Charles Shield and Anthony Rezcallah, left Wichita Surgical Specialists, which provided physicians for the program. Shield retired and Rezcallah resigned.

In 2012, Via Christi’s program was on track to perform about 50 transplants, a relatively small number. Typically, a moderate program would do about 80 transplants a year; large programs do upwards of 140 per year.

Plans to restart

In July, Via Christi hired Gary Sigle, the former director of clinical transplant for Humana, as the new transplant administrator.

It is unclear if Sigle will stay with Via Christi.

The transplant institute within St. Francis, where patients could have pre- and post-operative appointments, had been moved from the sixth floor to a newly renovated area on the second floor in August.

Rider said they have not yet determined what other programs could move to that area of the hospital.

Via Christi officials had previously said they had started recruiting for two surgeons and one nephrologist for the program. Rider said that Via Christi could have recruited physicians for the program if it wanted, but decided to go in a different direction.

Rider declined to say how much it would have cost for Via Christi to restart the program.

“It’s expensive to hire teams of physicians,” he said.

Via Christi had also sought extensions from the United Network for Organ Sharing, an accreditation body. The extension for the program ran out earlier this year.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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