Tower Health’s liver and kidney transplant program will move to Penn Medicine

Tower Health announced Wednesday that instead of closing the liver and kidney transplant program it inherited two years ago from the shuttered Hahnemann University Hospital outright, it will let Penn Medicine take it over.

Patient screening and pre- and post-transplant care will continue at Reading Hospital in Berks County, but surgeries will move to Penn’s Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in mid-December.

“While our Transplant Institute and its skilled clinical team have produced excellent outcomes, the long-term costs associated with growing the program were not sustainable,” said P. Sue Perrotty, president and chief executive of Tower Health. The system has suffered deep financial losses since spending close to $500 million to expand in Southeastern Pennsylvania several years ago.

Tower performed three kidney transplants at Reading Hospital, in West Reading, last year and two so far this year, according to the federal Organ Procurement & Transplantation Network. The program completed one liver transplant in each of the last two years. Penn’s program so far this year transplanted 93 livers and 134 kidneys.

In a note to employees, Tower said the coronavirus pandemic made it hard for the new transplant program — which received regulatory approval in late 2019 — to get off the ground.

Tower’s Transplant Institute employs 10 doctors and about 25 staff. Not all of the doctors will get jobs with Penn, but details were not available. It’s expected that most of the staff will continue to work in Berks County, under Penn’s management.

Separately, Penn and Tower are working out the terms of an alliance. Penn already has alliances of various sorts with Virtua Health in South Jersey and Grand View Health and Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The relationship between Penn and Tower for transplants is not unusual. Temple University Health System in March announced an affiliation with Capital Health in Mercer County for liver transplants, adding to transplant relationships Temple has with St. Luke’s University Health Network and Guthrie, a five-hospital network in north-central Pennsylvania and southern New York.