Providence Wins Federal Certification For Heart Transplant Program

Heart transplant operation at Providence.JPG

Providence will no longer have to self fund its heart transplant program.

The hospital system announced Wednesday that it had won certification from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a crucial step to keep the program alive. Without it, hospitals cannot bill Medicare or Medicaid for the operation, which can cost more than $1 million, and most patients are federally insured.

CMS requires new programs to perform 10 successful operations before seeking certification. In its release, Providence said the health authority conducted a “rigorous five-day review” that involved combing through the medical records and analyzing safety procedures for 15 transplant patients.

“The reviewers were impressed with (the) extensive infrastructure that has been created to support this program,” Dr. Dan Oseran, executive medical director of Providence Heart Institute, said in a release. “This is a reflection of the team’s commitment to deliver safe and reliable care for these vulnerable patients.”

Providence did not provide any details about the patients but its release indicated that they're doing well. Heart transplants are delicate operations, and patients are always severely ill. Not all of them survive even when conditions are optimal.

And last year conditions were especially difficult. Transplant patients have to be on immunosuppressants to ensure that their bodies don't reject the foreign organs, putting them at increased risk of illness in face of an infectious disease, like COVID.  

Providence has performed a total of 16 heart transplants since it launched its heart transplant program last year, and currently has 12  patients on its waiting list. 

Oregon Health & Science University, which has had a heart transplant program for more than 30 years, has performed 10 operations since last spring following a yearlong hiatus. A series of deaths of heart transplant patients in 2017 prompted OHSU to re-evaluate its program. The head of its heart transplant team was demoted, and all the heart failure cardiologists left, including Dr. Jill Gelow, who is now medical director of Providence’s heart transplant program.

When the program closed, about 400 of OHSU’s heart failure patients were transferred to Providence. That prompted Providence to launch its own transplant program at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

OHSU revamped its program, brought in new staff and performed its first heart transplant in nearly two years last March. 

The new hires include Dr. Deborah Meyers, a heart failure cardiologist who’s worked in California, Texas and Australia. She said OHSU’s latest heart transplant was performed recently.

“This last heart transplant marks the 725th heart transplant that has been performed at OHSU since the inception of the heart transplant program,” Meyers said. “All of our 10 transplant patients are doing beautifully, and as a team we are all thrilled with this outcome.”

OHSU has four patients awaiting a new heart. The hospital system is also in the process of building a new duo transplant program, Meyers said. 

“We are in the final stages of building a heart-kidney transplant program for patients that suffer from both conditions that will be a resource to patients that currently have to travel out of state for this care,” she said.

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


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This is good news for Oregon and the Portland metro area.   My wife and I have wanted to consider returning to Oregon in retirement but the lack of good heart programs was an obstacle - my wife has had extensive heart care in California and will need to be close to a strong program in the future.  For several years the only programs available were in Bay Area or Seattle.  Even in California the programs are in the Bay Area/Sacramento or in LA/San Diego but not much in between.   This opens up the possibility for us to return to Oregon.