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Decision Angers Kidney Patients

A number of kidney patients and a local coalition formed on their behalf said they are angry about the University of South Alabama's decision to, no longer perform kidney transplants in Mobile.

Barbara Hodnett, chairperson of the Coalition for the Support of the USA Regional Transplant Center said, "It's going to be a major hardship. We need a center here. Bottom line."

Hospital officials announced last week that under a new collaboration, all transplants would be done at the University of Alabama at Birmingham after December. The USA center in Mobile will still be obtainable for pre- and post-transplant care.

Officials said that strong competition from the more established program at UAB and a lack of local physician referrals resulted in meager patient numbers at the Mobile center, which also suffered persistent financial losses.

Financial losses also are distressing Mobile area patients.

Hodnett said, "It's not an easy commute to Birmingham. Very few people on the list in Mobile can afford that."

There are about 200 people on the center's waiting record.

Hospital officials said they were developing plans to relieve some of the travel costs for their patients, but still required to work out the facts.

Stan Hammack, USA vice president for health systems said, "If I was one of the 200 people on that list, getting a transplant, I'd be concerned about going to Birmingham, the 4-hour trip and everything. We're aware of that; we're working to mitigate that."

Hammack said hospital officials have been looking at both Medicaid and the Kidney Foundation for assistance with transportation expenditures.

Hammack said, "If the community wants to step forward and help us figure out the right thing to do, help us with that piece."

Transportation costs and dissatisfaction with the UAB program are two issues with which Grady Metts of Mobile is struggling.

"It's breaking my heart," Metts, 43, said of the decision to close the center. Metts, who was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in the mid-1990s, was on the Birmingham waiting record for more than four years, but never received a call.

He said He went on the Mobile list in 1999, and within three months, he underwent a kidney transplant at the USA center.

He said, "They gave me a new life."

Metts was told about three months ago that his transplanted kidney was failing, and he would have to go for another transplant soon. He had hoped that transplant would occur once again at the USA center.

His wife, Rebecca, said she spoke with hospital officials last week about her husband's options. She and Grady were told that they could go on the list in Birmingham or on the lists at centers in either New Orleans or Jackson, Miss., she said.

Grady Metts said, "As of right now, I'm just going to go with my dialysis until I decide to make that decision."

 

 

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