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OHSU president 'will bring heart transplant program back'

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Acknowledging it may take months, OHSU's new president said they have every intention of re-starting the recently suspended heart transplant program.

Dr. Danny Jacobs told KOIN 6 News "it would be speculative to put a timeline on when" the heart transplant program would resume at OHSU. Asked if the end of the year is a possibility, Jacobs said, "You're asking me to speculate again. But that's probably too soon. I wouldn't say it's impossible, though."

Jacobs, who has been president for only 5 weeks, announced Oregon Health & Science University will commission an independent peer review of its multidisciplinary heart transplant program. The independent peer review comes about 2 weeks after OHSU announced it would temporarily suspend its heart transplant program due to a staff shortage.

"As president of the state's only academic health center, it is my responsibility to ensure all Oregonians have access to the best possible care in a supportive environment," Dr. Jacobs said in a statement. "Building on the heart transplant program's history and legacy, this review will help inform our ongoing efforts to ensure the program is sustainable for the long term."

The suspension of the program is "highly unfortunate" and "challenging and distressful for patients and staff," he told KOIN 6 News.

"But we will bring the program back, as quickly as possible, and use this as an opportunity to make it bigger and better."

As of Monday, all 20 patients on the heart transplant waitlist who requested a transfer to another center have been successfully connected, according to OHSU. The hospital added that its team continues to work with other patients impacted by the program's inactivation.

"I would like for (patients) to understand that as president I take responsibility. We will bring the program back and we are doing everything in our power to help with the transitions of care."

"We are fully committed to reactivating the state's only heart transplant program for patients in Oregon and beyond. To that end, we are aggressively recruiting the specialists needed to provide the full continuum of care. Although much of the peer review process is confidential, we will share our progress with patients, employees and the community," Dr. Jacobs said.

He said recruiting new doctors for the heart transplant program "is not gong to be easy, I suspect," but added he already has a few candidates, including some specialists who are calling to offer help.

"If we are able to communicate to potential candidates we are open, we are direct, we are patient-centered, we are team-based and by coming here and working with a team of individuals you can work on something bigger than yourself," he said, he's confident OHSU will have a heart transplant program again.

"The reputation of this institution is outstanding."

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