U of L withdrawal of some services from Jewish Hospital puts Louisville’s only adult organ transplant center at risk

Jewish Hospital has a prominent place along Interstate 65. (Courier Journal photo by Sam Upshaw)

“The University of Louisville may soon stop providing important medical services at Jewish Hospital — a move that could jeopardize the only adult organ transplant center in the city” and one of only two in Kentucky, Morgan Watkins reports for the Courier Journal. “All of the physicians who perform lung, kidney, liver, pancreas, heart and dual organ transplants at Jewish Hospital are employed by U of L, according to the university.”

U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said last month that the university was starting to move some medical services from Jewish to University of Louisville Hospital and elsewhere because of “the current uncertainty around” Jewish, which is for sale and at risk of closing.

“If the university is no longer providing the surgeons to do transplants, then there’s nobody to do the transplants at Jewish Hospital. It’s not like you can bring in somebody overnight,” colorectal surgeon Wayne Tuckson told Watkins. He works for KentuckyOne Health, the Catholic Health Initiatives subsidiary that owns Jewish. CHI, which has had financial problems, is merging with Dignity Health of San Francisco.

“U of L has been making contingency plans for its solid organ transplant program, but shifting such operations from one hospital to another isn’t an easy or quick process, according to Laura Aguiar, principal and managing partner of Transplant Solutions LLC, which works with transplant programs around the country,” Watkins reports. The other transplant programs in Kentucky are at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville and the University of Kentucky.

Two big contracts between KentuckyOne and U of L expire at the end of this month, Watkins notes: “Under those agreements, KentuckyOne agreed to provide a minimum of about $35.6 million to the university for 56 medical resident positions at Jewish Hospital and the Frazier Rehab Institute, as well as for a variety of services performed by U of L employees, including heart and brain surgeries. . . . Also, U of L physicians serve as medical directors for the lung and liver transplant programs at Jewish. Even Jewish’s chief of surgery works at U of L’s school of medicine.”

KentuckyOne spokesman David McArthur told Watkins, “An agreement is not required for U of L physicians to practice at Jewish Hospital, and we welcome and encourage their continued service. Our desire and intent is to continue to provide comprehensive services for the community. If the university chooses to relocate their physicians to other area hospitals, it will impact the services available at Jewish Hospital.” He said the company and the hospital are still in “productive discussions.” Watkins reports KentuckyOne has agreed to fund the 56 U of L residents at Jewish Hospital and the Frazier institute through June 30.

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