TULSA, Oklahoma - The kidney transplant program at Tulsa's Saint Francis Hospital will close March 22, potentially delaying the procedure for patients who were about to receive their kidney.

A Tulsa man says he was within months of getting a kidney - but the closure will delay his procedure until next year.

Saint Francis opened their program in 2005. Because of the closure, the hospital is transferring records, and referring patients to programs either at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, or one of two transplant centers in Oklahoma City.

Mary Johnson, RN, the Director of Patient Care Services at Saint Francis, said, "Of course they have their choice of program to go to and depending on which it is, our staff is working with them to ensure a smooth movement of these patients."

Saint Francis notified the patients by letter. Johnson pointed out that when their program started, there was no other option in Tulsa, and now there is.

The hospital said in a statement that "patients will retain their existing spot on the transplant list, and there should be no interruption in the care of or wait list status of our patients."

Dustin Rippetoe says he moved to Tulsa to be near Saint Francis as his transplant was approaching - and word of the closing came the day after what he hoped was his final medical exam.

"Had that done on a Wednesday and found out on a Thursday," Rippetoe said.

After transferring to St. John Medical, he said, "They told me it would be months before I could get in before my first evaluation."

Dr. John Forrest, the Chief Medical Officer at St. John, said "St. John Medical Center has experienced a significant increase in the number of patients completing intake forms for our renal transplant program. This increase is in addition to patients who were already listed as actively awaiting a kidney transplant at St. John Medical Center. With the addition of patients from the Saint Francis program, there are approximately 100 patients awaiting a kidney transplant at St. John.

"St. John Medical Center has both the capacity and capability to meet the needs of this patient population. St. John is the highest-rated renal transplant program in Oklahoma and is one of the top 30 kidney transplant programs in the United States."

Despite possible delays because of the closure of the Saint Francis Program, the longest wait for most patients is that for a donor. LifeShare of Oklahoma reports there are 515 dialysis patients in Oklahoma waiting on kidney transplants.