The New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) on Thursday recommended approval of Northwell Health’s request to open a heart transplant center at the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH). The recommendation has been forwarded to state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, MD, for final approval.
Northwell Health received preliminary approval by PHHPC on May 18, the first time since 1999 that the state considered expanding the number of heart transplant programs.
“A life-saving heart transplant program at North Shore University Hospital will be a major resource for residents of Long Island, Queens and the outer boroughs who currently must travel outside of their community for transplantation services,” said Alan Hartman, MD, senior vice president and executive director of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at Northwell Health. “This gives transplant patients access to high-quality care, closer to home.”
Brian Lima, MD, a transplant surgeon and researcher, was recently recruited to join the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital as director of cardiac transplantation. Dr Lima was previously surgical director of mechanical circulatory support at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX. Gerin Stevens, MD, PhD, of Northwell Health will serve as the transplant program’s cardiac medical director. Dr. Stevens specializes in advanced heart failure, mechanical circulatory support and cardiac transplantation.
NSUH is partnering with its affiliate, Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, in developing a heart transplant program. NSUH and Maimonides cardiologists have extensive training in caring for heart failure patients and heart transplant patients for both pre- and post-transplant services, including extensive experience in surgically implanting cardiac assist devices. This integrated regional program enhances the delivery of services for residents in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Northwell Health hospitals collectively treat more heart failure patients than any health system in New York State. Over the past three years, Northwell facilities hospitalized 20,906 heart failure patients – 14 percent of the statewide total. Northwell’s heart failure team is currently following about 1,000 patients. “A heart transplant program at North Shore University Hospital will enable heart failure patients to maintain continuity of care with their physicians and avoid the need to travel to Manhattan, the Bronx or beyond for care,” said Lewis Teperman, MD, NSUH’s vice chair of surgery and director of solid organ transplantation at Northwell Health. “Heart transplant patients require many trips to the hospital for pre- and post- care and must receive a lifetime of follow up care. Eliminating the burden of extensive travel for patients and families makes a huge difference.”
Additionally, the NSUH service area accounts for 46 percent of all transplants in the state – and 90 percent of the growth in transplants throughout the state over the past three years. "Our service area has an increasingly sicker heart failure population, with a 38 percent increase in hospital discharges involving heart failure patients compared to a 21 percent increase for the entire state,” said Barry Kaplan, MD, senior vice president and executive director of cardiology at Northwell Health, and co-director of the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital. “With our highly experienced team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurses and clinicians, we can provide heart transplant patients access to the highest quality of care and a complete continuum of care, which focuses on patient and family centered treatment.”
As part of developing a heart transplant center at NSUH, Northwell Health has committed to increasing organ donation throughout its hospital network. Working with LiveOnNY, Northwell is trying to increase organ donations to meet the needs of all types of organ transplant recipients. Dr. Teperman said with increased awareness and internal programs for physicians, nurses and other clinicians to make referrals, organ donations for the health system improved almost one-third in a six-month period last year.
According to the plan developed by Northwell, there will be no construction or renovation associated with the heart transplant center at NSUH. Existing hospital space will be used for the pre- and post-transplant medical assessment and treatments. The existing NSUH hospital suite, cardiothoracic intensive care unit and cardiac step-down unit will be utilized for transplant surgeries.
Currently, 322 adult residents in New York are candidates on the wait list for a heart transplant, according to the Organ Procurement Transplantation Network. In addition, New York State has the highest number of candidates waiting for a heart transplant in the country. The state has five heart transplant centers: three in New York City, one in Westchester and another in Rochester.
# # #
About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 22 hospitals and over 550 outpatient facilities. We care for more than two million people annually in the metro New York area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 62,000 employees – 15,000+ nurses and about 3,900 physicians, including more than 2,800 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. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. And we offer health insurance through CareConnect. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.