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Providence, out-of-state hospitals prepare to fill gaps left by OHSU heart transplant program

Providence, out-of-state hospitals prepare to fill gaps left by OHSU heart transplant program In the wake of Oregon's only heart transpl...

Providence, out-of-state hospitals prepare to fill gaps left by OHSU heart transplant program

In the wake of Oregon's only heart transplant center shutting down indefinitely, hospitals in Oregon, Washington and California have started to prepare to absorb an influx of patients.

Oregon Health & Science University announced Friday afternoon that all 20 of its heart transplant wait list patients have started the process to transfer to other hospitals or have chosen not to. OHSU has indefinitely suspended its program, with the last of the cardiologists on its heart transplant team leaving Sept. 30.

The program will be shut down until OHSU can find new cardiologists to ensure patients receive adequate care.

Providence Portland Medical Center sent an internal memo to staff this week to prepare them for an increased workload. Providence already has an active heart failure program with five heart failure specialists, offering everything but transplants.

Dr. Jill Gelow, who recently quit OHSU's heart transplant team, now works at Providence.

Providence ran a heart transplant program that shut down about 10 to 15 years ago after deciding that the area only needed one facility.

Dan Oseran, executive medical director of the Providence Heart Institute, said he and other hospital executives are in preliminary conversations about possibly restarting their program. However, Oseran cautioned that it would take months, if not longer, to get it running.

"Both institutions are committed and feel that having an outstanding, sustainable heart transplant program in Oregon is a priority and how that shakes out in the future, we'll have to see," Oseran said.

In the meantime, he said the important focus is to make sure Providence can handle the influx of patients at its current size. He said that patients who need implants as a precursor to a transplant are also welc ome.

"I think we can handle it," Oseran said. "We have to handle it. One way or another we will take care of these people."

Those people who need transplants soon have already started to transfer to out-of-state hospitals.

The University of Washington in Seattle has taken eight patients from Oregon already. Dan Fishbein, medical director for heart transplantation and a professor of cardiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said his department could take more.

Patients who transfer to out-of-state hospitals will retain the time they have already been on a waitlist. Fishbein said his staff uses the time on the list, plus how sick someone is, to determine who gets called next.

He also emphasized that not everyone who transfers to Seattle or San Francisco will have to move. The heart transplant team works with each patient to create a plan for how quickly they can get to the hospital when they get called.

While someone in southern Oregon might have a harder time, someone in Portland could have enough advance notice that a three-hour drive is no problem.

"The old days of need to be there in three hours or one hour is not really true anymore," Fishbein said.

The University of Washington's heart transplant program is the third largest in the country, replacing about 75 hearts last year. They have about 40 people on their waitlist at any given time, said spokesman Brian Donahue.

"Our primary commitment is to patients," Fishbein said. "A state line doesn't mean we're any less committed to people who live in Oregon than who live in Washington."

San Francisco hospitals will also likely be taking on Oregon patients. A spokesman with the University of California San Francisco did not immediately have an estimate of how many.

-- Molly Harbarger

mharbarger@oregonian.com
503-294-5923
@MollyHarbargerSource: Google News US Health | Netizen 24 United States

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