Oregon Health & Science University is commissioning an independent peer review of its Heart Transplant Program, which OHSU suspended indefinitely last week after four transplant cardiologists quit.

Outside consultants with extensive experience leading program evaluations and performance reviews will conduct the evaluation, which will allow staff to describe their experiences confidentially, OHSU announced.

The review, to begin in October, is intended to point out issues that led to the suspension and “what we need to do better,” including the quality of patient care, supervision of the program and staff and their education, OHSU President Dr. Danny Jacobs said.

“I profoundly regret this decision we had to make and the distress it’s caused our patients,” Jacobs said of the suspension. “Everyone regrets this disruption our patients are experiencing in their care. The key message for me is the peer review process will help us be patient-centered and bring the program back as quickly as possible.”

OHSU’s program was the only heart transplant program in the state. Since 1985, OHSU transplant specialists have performed 600 transplants.

But the program began to falter last month after three heart failure transplant cardiologists tendered their resignations weeks after another cardiologist resigned.

At first, OHSU suspended the program for two weeks, then made the suspension indefinite. Twenty patients on the heart transplant wait list who requested a transfer to another center have been successfully connected. The team is continuing to work with other patients who were impacted, including 327 post-transplant patients who still require care.

Providence Heart Institute, which provides the full spectrum of care to heart failure patients except for transplant, has taken on some of the OHSU patients, as have other centers in California and Washington. Jacobs said some of the heart failure specialists at UW Medicine in Seattle might come to Portland on a scheduled basis.

Meanwhile, OHSU is “aggressively recruiting” specialists in order to restart the program, he said. Whether that happens before the peer review is complete is unclear.

“We’re using our internal expertise and external to identify the kinds of people we can bring as quickly as possible,” he said. “We’ll turn over every stone to find the kinds of people we want to provide care to patients.”

The Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.