Johnson City Medical Center announced Wednesday it is phasing out its organ transplant services.
Candace Jennings, Mountain States Health Alliance’s senior vice president of Tennessee operations, said the Transplant Center at JCMC notified its 568 patients by letters mailed Tuesday that transplant procedures at the hospital will end Nov. 4.
The center will continue to provide follow-up care for post-operative transplant patients and donors for up to one year. The center also will assist all its patients, including transplant candidates and post-operative transplant recipients and donors, with their selection of an organ transplant center that will meet their individual needs, and with referrals, care transfers and transportation to other organ transplant centers.
Jennings said transplant candidates at JCMC who are participating in the United Network for Organ Sharing will maintain their place on the organ donation waiting list and “will not lose their place or fall back on the waiting list at all.”
The Transplant Center will remain in full operation through Nov. 4. “If an organ donor becomes available for anyone who is on the waiting list before Nov. 4, we will do (the transplant),” Jennings said.
“We have been in discussion with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services over the past several months, and with their help, we evaluated the entire service to determine whether continuing to offer this service is the best strategy going forward,” Jennings said.
“Unfortunately in this market, we do not have sufficient patient volumes to allow us to maintain the highest standard of treatment for this extremely specialized procedure as a larger, more active transplant center would.”
JCMC first began offering kidney and pancreas transplant procedures in 1990 and has completed more than 600 kidney, pancreas and combination kidney and pancreas transplants since the program’s inception.
“We have determined that the best option for our patients is to help them access services at a larger center that performs these procedures on a more frequent basis,” Jennings said. “We are sad to see the end of this service, which provided a great benefit for a small population of patients in our region. But the leadership of MSHA and JCMC places the highest priority on patient care, and we believe that this decision is in the best interest of the patient.”
Letters notifying patients of the pending closure request they call the center at 461-6164 to begin the process of transferring their care to another transplant center. If the center does not hear from a patient immediately, staff members will contact the patient by phone to begin the process.
“We are going to see that all our patients get to a new center and that the process is hassle-free for them as possible,” she said.
The Transplant Center’s service area includes 29 counties in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Western North Carolina and Northern Georgia. Patients’ transfer options will include the transplant centers available at University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and the University of Virginia Medical Center at Charlottesville, and others.
Jennings said the closure is not related to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s April 20 notice that the transplant center had not met conditions of participation in federal Medicaid and Medicare programs due to deficiencies that were corrected before a pending discontinuance of the government insurance programs’ coverage for the center’s patients.
At that time, MSHA officials attributed the DHHS notice to problems with the center’s documentation of nurse competencies and follow-up care procedures and that the nurse competencies and follow-up care procedures were at all times keeping with conditions of participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid continued coverage for the center patients without interruption following a review of the center’s correction of the documentation issues, MSHA officials said.