Intermountain at center of conflicting reports on adult gender transition appointments

Questions have emerged about Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Health's gender-affirming care policies and practices after a May 18 report from KUER, an NPR member station, detailed two cases of patients who claim to have been preparing for transitional surgery, only to have their appointments abruptly canceled.

Intermountain has denied canceling any appointments and told Becker's that no changes have been made to adult gender care services.

While the state of Utah became the first state in the nation to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth in January, the law did not apply to care for adults, so a decision to cancel or halt these services by any health system in the state would not be a result of the newly instated law.

The health system told Becker's its "adult gender care program currently provides a wide variety of gender-affirming services, including surgeries, and will continue to provide them for patients. Some gender-affirming surgeries have never been performed at Intermountain facilities — those services are offered in the community by other providers."

Suzanne Draper, Intermountain’s vice president for business ethics and compliance, stated in a letter obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune that Intermountain "has never offered phalloplasty, vaginoplasty and metoidioplasty as part of its gender-affirming care."

However, a separate NPR report about one of the same patients details that she had a consultation for bottom surgery, or procedures to modify genitalia, with Intermountain in October 2022 and had been working with a care team to prepare for it, only to learn in February 2023 her appointment was canceled. A social worker with Intermountain's LGBTQ Health Program reportedly called her with the news.

When asked about the conflicting information, an Intermountain spokesperson told Becker's over the phone that they cannot comment on specific patient cases and reiterated that surgeries have not been canceled. 

It is unclear if there was a miscommunication between the two parties. 

KUER also points out that the system had also recently hired Nicholas Kim, MD, a well-known plastic surgeon with an expertise in bottom surgeries for transgender individuals. A video detailing his skillset was published online by Intermountain in February, KUER reported, but has since been taken down. According to the news outlet, an internal fact sheet from Intermountain noted that surgeons may have skills that are not utilized in their roles with the system. 

It is unclear why the video has since been removed from public viewing. 

The other patient featured in KUER's May 18 report was scheduled to have top surgery, and reported to the outlet he was told Dr. Kim was no longer performing that surgery. Intermountain told Becker's this appointment cancellation was a mistake that was later corrected.

The health system has also stated that it remains dedicated to serving LGBTQ patients and pointed to a list of its gender-affirming services that are offered for further information.

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