Long Islanders in need of a new heart no longer have to look for care far from home.
The New York health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, last week approved a proposal by Northwell Health Network, allowing North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset to be the first Long Island facility to offer heart transplants.
“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,” Dr. Alan Hartman, Northwell executive director of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, said in a news release. “This gives transplant patients access to high-quality care, closer to home.”
Dr. Brian Lima, a transplant surgeon and researcher, was recently recruited to join the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital as director of cardiac transplantation. Lima was previously surgical director of mechanical circulatory support at Baylor University Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
Dr. Gerin Stevens will serve as the transplant program’s cardiac medical director and specializes in advanced heart failure, mechanical circulatory support and cardiac transplantation.
Northwell hospitals collectively treat more heart failure patients than any health system in the state. Over the past three years, Northwell facilities hospitalized 20,906 heart failure patients, 14 percent of the statewide total.
New York has the highest number of candidates waiting for a heart transplant, with 322 residents on the waiting list, according to the Organ Procurement Transplantation Network. Beyond Long Island, the state has five heart transplant centers: three in New York City, one in Westchester and another in Rochester.
“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,” Dr. Lewis Teperman, Northwell’s director of solid organ transplantation, said in a news release. “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.”
As part of developing a heart transplant center and in conjunction with LiveOnNY, Northwell Health is trying to increase organ donations to meet the needs of all types of organ transplant recipients. 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.