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Workload, Character Clashes And Burn Out Plagued OHSU's Heart Transplant Program

<p>Oregon Health and Science University.</p>

Alan Sylvestre

Oregon Health and Science University.

OHSU had to deactivate its heart transplant program last summer after four cardiologists quit in short succession. Experts examined the program, and OHSU president, Dr. Danny Jacobs, says the hospital is working to improve the atmosphere and reopen the program before Sept. 1.

“We actually have signed enough people to reactivate the program,” he said. 

The university has three key physicians lined up. But to improve staff ratios, it plans to hire two more.

If the university doesn’t reopen the unit by Sept. 1,  it will need to get re-certified — meaning the first 10 heart transplants would have to be performed at university expense.

In a written statement, OHSU administrators stressed the positive: "We are confident that by leveraging our decades of experience in managing transplant programs, including performing more than 700 heart transplants; using the insights we have received from leading transplant experts and from our own internal reviews; and, following our guiding principles, we will have a robust, vibrant and reinvigorated Heart Transplant Program to meet the needs of those we serve."

Earlier this spring, Providence Health announced a $75 million dollar gift from Nike founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny to start a new heart transplant program.

Dr. Jacobs said Oregon and Portland are big enough to support two programs.

"Given the growth that the state is experiencing, there's ... an opportunity to have two robust programs," he said. 

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.