Providence Gains Federal Approval For Its Heart Transplant Program

Providence St. Vincent Medical Center has cleared its last key hurdle to launching its heart transplant program.

The Lund Report learned Monday that a subcommittee of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network granted the program interim approval. That means that Providence could start heart transplants right away, a network spokeswoman said. The network oversees transplantation programs in the United States.

Providence initially announced that Dr. Jill Gelow, a cardiologist who moved to Providence from Oregon Health & Science University when OHSU’s heart transplant program imploded in 2018, would oversee the program as medical director. But the transplantation directory shows she’ll share that responsibility with Dr. Brian Bruckner, a heart surgeon from Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston who was hired by Providence last year.

OHSU closed its program for a year when its heart transplant team left but reopened last August. It performed a heart transplant last month, its first in nearly two years.

Providence had hoped to launch the program April 1 but then COVID-19 hit. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about when the program will now open. When that happens, Oregon will have two heart transplant programs for the first time since 2012. Providence closed its program that year because of a lack of demand. Providence cardiologists had been in talks with OHSU to create a joint program after hundreds of OHSU’s heart failure patients moved to Providence, but OHSU decided to rebuild its own program.

Dr. Dan Oseran, executive director of the Providence Heart Institute, has said he thinks there will be enough demand for two programs in Oregon. 

Washington state has three heart transplant programs -- at the University of Washington Medical Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle and at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital in Spokane.

Providence will have to perform 10 heart transplants to qualify for federal reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. That funding is crucial to keep a program afloat. Heart transplants can cost more than $1 million.

You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected] or on Twitter @LynnePDX.

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