Detroit Medical Center quietly ended its kidney transplant program last month, leaving at least 146 patients on its transplant wait list to seek care at other health systems.
The Detroit hospital system ended its program on Nov. 12, according to two sources who agreed to speak to Crain's on the condition of anonymity, after it discovered the primary nephrologist it had running the program was not properly certified with the nonprofit that manages the U.S. transplant system, United Network for Organ Sharing.
Mohammad Alsawah is a nephrologist for Detroit-based Nephro-Care Md PLC, and through a contract with that provider, he was brought on to run the DMC program after its primary nephrologist leading the kidney transplant operations left the system. The timing of the hire -- and why DMC did not confirm the physician's certifications with UNOS before contracting him -- are unclear.
Health system kidney transplant programs are required to have at least one UNOS-certified nephrologist to lead the operation.
Alsawah, who is also currently awaiting trial on an alleged misdemeanor criminal sexual assault charge in Southfield against a nurse employed at DMC Sinai-Grace, declined to comment when contacted by Crain's.
DMC said in a statement to Crain's that the lack of proper certification for Alsawah did not influence its decision to shutter the transplant program. The health system did not comment on the criminal charge.
"Following UNOS review, the physician in question was not approved to be the primary nephrologist for the program and as a result was removed from the position at the DMC," Jason Barczy, group manager of operation communications told Crain's in an emailed statement. "His departure was not related to the decision to close the program."
UNOS currently lists 146 transplant candidates in the DMC program. Those patients are being placed in programs at other systems, including Henry Ford Hospital and Ascension St. John Hospital, both in Detroit, a source close to the program said.
Henry Ford has 416 kidney transplant candidates in its program and Ascension St. John has 134 candidates, according to data from UNOS. University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor is the largest kidney transplant program in the state with 753 candidates, according to UNOS data.
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There is no indication that the closure of the DMC program will impact patient wait times for transplants. The UNOS website says that if a patient wants to transfer to another hospital, "your primary waiting time can be transferred as long as you coordinate with both programs."
The sources said some DMC staff were laid off as part of the program's closure, but DMC did not confirm the number impacted.
"The DMC has decided to close the kidney transplant program," Barczy said in a statement to Crain's. "We are working closely with patients currently on our wait list or receiving post-transplant care in the program to support them through their transition into another program in the area. Staff members impacted by the closure are being considered for other open positions available across the health system."
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's Detroit Business.