The area’s only kidney transplant program, which Via Christi suspended earlier this month following the deaths of four transplant patients, faces another setback.
The surgeons who performed those transplants — the area’s only renal transplant surgeons — are no longer with their practice group, Wichita Surgical Specialists.
Charles Shield, who has performed kidney transplants in Wichita for at least 27 years, and Anthony Rezcallah, who has been in Wichita since 2010, have left Wichita Surgical, officials from the surgeons’ group and Via Christi confirmed this week.
Kari Clark, Wichita Surgical’s administrator, said in an e-mail that it is in the process of recruiting kidney transplant surgeons.
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Clark would not say why Shield and Rezcallah left.
Efforts to reach Rezcallah were unsuccessful. Messages left at Shield’s home this week were not returned.
Sherry Hausmann, president of Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, where the kidney transplant program is based, said Via Christi officials are continuing a review of the transplant program so the surgeons’ departures will not have an immediate effect.
More than three weeks ago, Via Christi officials announced they were suspending the kidney transplant program because they were reviewing the deaths of four patients who had transplants at different times in the past year. They said at the time that each of the four patients had a different cause of death. Officials were pausing the program to do internal and external reviews of the cases as well as to ask outside experts to conduct a top-to-bottom quality review of the program, which has recorded 1,100 kidney transplants since its inception. Hausmann expects the outside quality review to happen in July.
Hausmann said Via Christi knew that Shield, 66, was reaching retirement age and that a succession plan might be needed, so “we had already initiated a recruitment effort” before Shield and Rezcallah left the program. Hausmann said she couldn’t say whether the transplant surgeon or surgeons they recruit will be employed by Via Christi or Wichita Surgical, which is the area’s largest surgical practice group.
Hausmann said patients who have had kidney transplants there are continuing to receive care from the program’s two kidney specialists, or transplant nephrologists.
She said Via Christi has been helping patients awaiting kidney transplants to connect with the area’s closest kidney transplant programs, which are in Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
The hospital’s intent is to continue the kidney transplant program here, Hausmann said.
“Via Christi is dedicated to the program, and we believe it is a program that is needed in the community,” she said. “We would like to re-establish the program for the community.”
But the process of getting kidney transplants restarted could take some time without surgeons to perform them.
“The recruitment process, that could take a while,” Hausmann said.