With Oregon's only heart transplant center closed indefinitely, hospitals in Oregon, Washington and California have been preparing to absorb an influx of patients.
The Oregon Health & Science University announced on Friday afternoon that all 20 of its heart transplant waiting list patients have begun the process to transfer to other hospitals or have decided not to leave. OHSU discontinued its program indefinitely, with the last cardiologist leaving his heart transplant team on September 30.
The program will be discontinued until OHSU can find new cardiologists to ensure that patients receive adequate care.
Providence Portland Medical Center sent an internal memo to staff this week to prepare them for increased workload. Providence already has an active heart failure program with five heart failure specialists offering everything except transplants.
Dr. Jill Gelow, who recently left OHSU's heart transplant team, now works in Providence.
Providence conducted a heart transplant program that closed about 1
Dan Oseran, executive medical director of the Providence Heart Institute, said he and other hospital executives are in preparatory talks about possible re-start of their program. But Oseran warned that it would take months, if not longer, to get it going.
"Both institutions are committed and feel that an outstanding, sustainable heart transplant program is a priority in Oregon. In the future, we will have to see," Oseran said.
In the meantime, he said it was important to ensure that Providence could cope with the influx of patients at their present size. He said that patients who need implants as a precursor to a transplant are also welcome.
"I think we can handle that," Oseran said. "We have to deal with it, in one way or another we will take care of these people."
Those who soon need transplants have already started moving to out-of-hospital hospitals.
The University of Washington in Seattle has already admitted eight patients from Oregon. Dan Fishbein, medical director of cardiac transplantation and professor of cardiology at the University of Washington Medical School, said his department could take more.
Patients moving to out-of-hospital hospitals retain the time they already had on a waiting list. Fishbein said his staff use the time on the list, plus how sick someone is to see who is called next.
He also emphasized that not everyone who moves to Seattle or San Francisco needs to move. The heart transplant team works with each patient to make a plan of how quickly they can come to the hospital when they are called.
While someone in South Oregon might have a harder time, someone in Portland could have enough advance notice that a three-hour trip is not a problem.
"The old days of needing to be there in three hours or an hour are 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. According to Brian Donahue, the spokesman for 1965, they have about 40 people on their waiting list. "Our primary obligation is the patient," said Fishbein. "A state border does not mean that we live less for people living in Oregon than in Washington."
San Francisco hospitals are also likely to adopt Oregon patients. A spokesman for the University of California San Francisco did not immediately estimate how many
– Molly Harbarger