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VOL. 125 | NO. 220 | Thursday, November 11, 2010

Competitors Partner on Bone Marrow Transplants

By Tom Wilemon

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Some of the city’s fiercest health care competitors have joined forces so Memphis can have a top-quality bone marrow transplant center.

The Tennessee Blood & Marrow Transplant Center, with locations at Methodist University Hospital and Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, is the new collaboration.

The competing organizations teamed up because duplicative efforts by the hospitals had sapped resources, siphoned volume and kept either from achieving success.

“We had two centers that weren’t reaching the volumes they needed to be a great center,” said Dr. Steve J. Schwab, chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “And we had two health care systems that weren’t getting the results they desired because of the competition – competition between physician groups and competition between health care systems.”

Most patients were going to centers with more established reputations and medical expertise in Nashville and other locations, he said.

Schwab helped forge the collaboration among Baptist Memorial Health Care, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and the city’s leading oncology practices. The effort took about a year and a half.

The Tennessee Blood & Marrow Transplant Center began offering its services to patients in October. It is staffed by university physicians. As part of its commitment, the university is adding a division of cell therapies and transplantation to its College of Medicine.

“We are aggressively recruiting a new team,” Schwab said. “I don’t think we’re prepared to announce the new team yet because we are knee-deep in negotiations, but we’re in the process of bringing a new team of physicians to do stem cell therapy, to do bone marrow transplantation here in Memphis.”

The Tennessee Blood & Marrow Transplant Center allows patients to receive autologous transplantations from their own bone marrow and allogeneic transplantations from a family member or unrelated donor match.

The bone marrow transplants will be available for patients with lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, severe anemia, germ cell tumors and other diseases.

The locations at the two hospitals will also function as harvest facilities for stem cells to help patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Adult donors can give through apheresis, a procedure where blood is drawn then circulated through a machine that removes stem cells and white blood cells. The rest of the blood is returned to the donor.

The center is supported by an advisory board composed of representatives of some of the city’s leading oncology clinic, including The Family Cancer Center, Integrity Oncology, The Jones Clinic, University of Tennessee Cancer Institute and The West Clinic.

Representatives of the university, the hospitals and the physician practices celebrated the new partnership with a reception Tuesday evening at the Crescent Center.

Schwab said health care leaders will look for other partnership opportunities.

“If the volume is so significant that the two health care systems can do it and do it well, they are going to do it,” Schwab said. “Certainly, both Baptist and Methodist are very powerful health care systems. They are going to do surgical procedures and medical procedures.

“What we are looking for is those diseases or unique procedures that we need to team up on. If we don’t, then our patients will not get the quality of care we want them to get or they will leave the region to get care.”

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