Oregon Health & Science University has placed its heart transplant program on hold indefinitely while leaders try to replace four cardiologists who announced their departures in the past few weeks.
The heart transplant program announced Friday it will go dark after Sept. 30. That leaves Oregon without a heart transplant center for the foreseeable future, meaning local patients must now travel to Seattle or San Francisco for care.
Three cardiologists resigned in the past two weeks and will leave by the end of September. Dr. Jill Gelow left previously. OHSU leaders decided last Friday to suspend the program for 14 days.
There is now no date on when — or if — the program will restart.
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OHSU said Friday that all 20 patients on the wait list either have referrals to different hospitals, or have decided not to transfer.
However, the suspension also touches patients who need follow-up care or evaluations from heart failure specialists.
An OHSU statement said that 327 post-transplant patients are working with the university to figure out where they will receive care.
Previously, Chief Medical Officer Renee Edwards said patients would be the first to know if the 14-day period were extended. So far, all patients have been notified of the change in status by email, but calls are still going out, the statement said.
A cardiac care hotline at 1-833-674-8236 will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday until Sept. 7. The hotline could stay open after that point, if needed. Patients and families of patients can also email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
OHSU will have to consult with federal authorities to restart the program, if officials are able to rebuild the cardiology team.
Patients who don't need transplants or long-term heart pumps — such as people who need complex cardiovascular and heart failure care — can still attend OHSU as they would normally.
The development comes amid a report that OHSU's chief of cardiology has been named in a lawsuit filed by doctor who left in 2017. Dr. Rupa Bala, a cardiac electrophysiologist, has accused Joaquin Cigarroa, the university and its chief of electrophysiology, Charles Henrikson, of violating her civil rights on the basis of gender and race.
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