Providence announces heart transplants; OHSU re-activates

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Providence St. Vincent Medical Center  in Portland will begin a heart transplant program with the help of a $75 million gift from Phil and Penny Knight.

At a noon press conference, Providence officials announced the gift that will make Providence “the most comprehensive heart program” between San Francisco and Seattle

Dr. Dan Oseran announced “a transformational gift from Phil and Penny Knight of $75 million,” one of the largest gifts Providence has received. Part of this donation will be used to develop the heart transplant program.

Lisa Vance, the CEO for Providence Health & Services in Oregon, joked at the beginning of the press conference that it was “a good day to be the CEO for Providence.” 

“It’s not about money, it’s not about ego. It’s about caring for the community. We’ve had many conversations with OHSU and we hope that they continue,” Vance said. “But today with the care we’re providing and the commitment you heard from our leadership positions we want to move ahead with building our transplant program.”

She added, “This builds on years and years of excellence and a leading program in the Northwest.”

Oseran and Vance were joined at the press conference by cardiologist Dr. Jacob Abraham, who thanked everyone for making this possible.

He also said Providence has been providing care for hundreds of transplant patients who received care at OHSU, and they expect to have a transplant program up and running within 6 months to a year.

Abraham said Providence already provides almost the entire portfolio of heart therapies. But a transplant program has patient benefits.

“Having to go out of state, particularly when you’re sick, there are a lot of logistical hurdles, financial hurdles, social hurdles,” he said. “People have to relocate and be in their transplant city for up to 3 months after their transplant is performed.”

One of those Providence patients is Todd Kruse. He’s been on a heart pump for more than a year and is hoping for a transplant. 

Bill Trubitz is recovering from a quadruple bypass and knows how critical is is to have this kind of care close by.

“To have the support we have here, to have this rehab, this is something that a lot of places in the United States don’t have this type of thing,” Trubitz said. “We’re really fortunate to have this.”

In addition to the transplant program, Providence Health said they’ll be using the millions of dollars raised over the past several years to expand services in cardiac clinics and rehab centers across Oregon.

OHSU reactivates their heart transplant program

At almost the exact same time, OHSU announced they were re-activating their heart transplant program after suspending it in September 2018.

Leaders at OHSU told KOIN 6 News they were surprised by the Providence announcement.

OHSU President Danny Jacobs told KOIN 6 News on Thursday their “plan all along, beginning from deactivation back in August, was to restart.”

In September, Jacobs told KOIN 6 News “it would be speculative to put a timeline on when” the heart transplant program would resume at OHSU. Asked if the end of 2018 was a possibility, Jacobs said, “You’re asking me to speculate again. But that’s probably too soon. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, though.”

It turned out they re-activated the program on the same day Providence St. Vincent announced the gift from the Knights.

Over more than 30 years, OHSU performed more than 700 heart transplants. Their announcement — one minute after the Providence press conference began — noted all “of the support elements for the Heart Transplant Program remain in place at OHSU,” including surgeons, nurses, coordinators and staff.

They said their reactivated heart transplant program will include capabilities for both adult and pediatric patients, multi-organ failure capabilities, cardiovascular ICU, Level 1 trauma care and clinical trials.

Both programs have new staff on board and both are looking to hire more transplant surgeons. And both are unwavering in their plans to bring a program online.

Dr. Renee Edwards, the Chief Medical Officer for OHSU, said they continue to recruit cardiologists.

“We have to make sure we’ve secured the right team, the best team to restart the program,” Edwards said. 

But both Providence and OHSU acknowledge it could take 6 months or more to bring the programs online. They still have to be formally certified.

Neither Providence nor OHSU is closing the door to future partnerships.

“Besides patient care which is Job 1, we also have to think about the future – that’s research, that’s innovation, that’s discovery, and we also have to train future providers, which we do,” Jacobs said. 

“I would rather us think what’s best for Oregonians, which is why we still remain committed to thinking about partnerships going forward,” Jacobs said. “It’s more in my view than just a margin conversation. It’s a service duty responsibility conversation as well.”

Oseran with Providence agreed.

“We have been in conversations with them about opportunities for collaboration. I anticipate those conversations will continue,” Oseran said, “but today is about what we’re planning to do and we are planning to start a heart transplant program.”

Watch: Providence announces heart transplant program, March 14, 2019

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