Heart transplants suspended at OHSU amid cardiologist shortage

Portland, Ore.-based OHSU Healthcare temporarily suspended its heart transplant program after several cardiologists on the team announced plans to leave the institution, according to The Oregonian.

Renee Edwards, MD, vice president and CMO of OHSU Healthcare, confirmed the program's suspension to The Oregonian Aug. 27 and said the hospital will no longer evaluate new patients, accept donor hearts or perform transplant operations for at least 14 days. However, she noted the team is adequately staffed to follow up with patients who recently received a new heart, and patients who need pacemakers or comparable procedures may still go to OHSU for treatment.

Dr. Edwards told the publication the three individuals leaving the team are doing so for career or family reasons. Two individuals will stay at OHSU through the end of September. Leadership reportedly learned of the staff changes Aug. 24 and decided to suspend the program, which has operated for 32 years, according to the report. She also noted the suspension may last longer than 14 days.

OHSU's heart transplant program is the only one of its kind in Oregon, the report states. The institution performed 18 heart transplants in 2016, and 30 heart transplants the following year, according to federal data cited by the publication.

During the 14-day suspension, Dr. Edwards said officials will focus on recruiting transplant and heart failure specialists to the program. She said leadership is aware of and understands patients' concern over the situation.

"It was not an easy decision to make as the only heart transplant center in Oregon. We feel a tremendous amount of responsibility. But because our goal is to do the right thing, this pause is to ensure the care of our patients and look to the recruit of additional providers," Dr. Edwards told The Oregonian.

An internal memo obtained by The Oregonian and signed by three OHSU executives indicates the institution is working with federal and internal programs to help affected patients.

Heart transplant candidates can either stay with OHSU during the suspension period or receive a referral and assistance to transfer to another medical facility out of state. Kidney and liver transplants at OHSU are not affected by the staffing changes.

To access the full report, click here.

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