The state Department of Health (DOH) has given contingent approval to North Shore University Hospital’s (NSUH) request to establish Long Island’s first adult liver transplant program. The state Public Health and Health Planning Council has approved NSUH’s Adult Liver Transplant Service and its recommendation has been forwarded to state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, MD, for final approval.
“We’re enormously pleased that the more than 100 patients to whom we currently provide pre- and post-liver transplant services or who are recovering from end-stage liver disease will now have convenient access to a transplant center,” said Lewis Teperman, MD, FACS, vice chair of surgery at NSUH and director of organ transplantation at Northwell Health, who was recruited in mid-2016 to help lay the foundation for new liver and heart transplant programs at NSUH. “North Shore University Hospital has a service area of 5.3 million residents on Long Island and in Queens, but until now, patients with liver disease and their families have been plagued with a commute into Manhattan that is both burdensome and a true hardship, especially when you consider that the total transplant process can take up to three years.”
To house the new Adult Transplant Service, which is expected to be operational by December of this year, Northwell Health is investing in a new state-of-the-art Intensive Care Unit. The new ICU unit, dedicated specifically to transplant patients, will complement services delivered at NSUH’s Sandra Atlas Bass Center for Liver Diseases, which treated more than 4,300 patients in 2017 and is led by David Bernstein, MD, chief of hepatology at NSUH and Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
The number of liver patients being treated by NSUH has been increasing steadily. Since NSUH applied to the state to establish a transplant program in March 2017, Northwell Health’s 50 full-time gastroenterologists/hepatologists have referred 35 patients for liver transplant evaluations. The new NSUH program is expected to perform at least 20 liver transplants within its first two years of operation.
The new transplant service is headed by Dr. Teperman, while the medical transplant team will be led by Henry Bodenheimer, MD, the program’s medical director. The liver transplant service is being developed in partnership with Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, which is affiliated with Northwell Health.
NSUH’s new liver transplant program will not only help critically ill patients throughout Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties, but also provides additional choices for residents of Brooklyn and Staten Island. “With a shorter distance to travel to get life-saving transplants, patients who were previously constrained by their incomes or faced other limitations due to their illness will be more likely to attend regular appointments, which helps improve outcomes,” said Dr. Bodenheimer.
There are currently more than 1,100 New Yorkers on liver waiting lists across the state. While deceased donor livers are in limited supply, Northwell is working with LiveOnNY, an organ procurement organization, to raise awareness by continuing to educate physicians, staff and the community in general about the viability of living organ donation.
“The new liver transplant center is the fourth organ transplantation program established by Northwell Health over the past 11 years,” said Lawrence G. Smith, MD, MACP, executive vice president and physician-in-chief at Northwell Health. “North Shore University Hospital has been performing adult kidney transplants since 2007, increasing its volume to 65 transplants in 2017. In April 2017, the health system established a pediatric kidney transplant program at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, performing seven successful transplants in less than a year of operation. And this month, the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital is expected to perform its first adult heart transplant.”
There are currently seven other hospitals in New York State performing liver transplants: Manhattan’s New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weil Cornell Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center and New York University Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, Westchester Medical Center and Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, about 650 outpatient facilities and nearly 15,000 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 66,000 employees – 15,000-plus nurses and 4,000 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.