Hospital Discontinues Heart Transplants

Friday, February 22nd 2008, 5:41 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsans who need a new heart will have to travel out of town to get one.  That's because Saint Francis Hospital will no longer perform heart transplants.  News On 6 anchor Latoya Silmon reports Saint Francis says because of advancements in treatment and requirements to organ share, the hospital isn't doing enough transplants for the program to continue.

For a man who received a transplant there in 1995, the news is heartbreaking.

Since 1994, Saint Francis has performed more than 140 heart transplants.  Chuck Stophel had his surgery at the young age of 28.

"Going for a routine check up and get a call from the doctor the next day that says your heart is only working at 15% and you're going to need a transplant to survive. It was a shock," said Chuck Stophel.

The childhood cancer survivor was ready for battle.  Armed with his family and faith, he enlisted doctors at Saint Francis.

"We realized that they had an excellent program here. We had options of going other places, but met with the doctors here and realized that it was going to be an incredible program and the family support in this area was tremendous," said Chuck Stophel.

But, now the transplant program that has become family to him will no longer offer the procedure that saved his life.

"Obviously, it's a loss for Tulsa because the program that they had here was incredible," said Chuck Stophel.

Saint Francis says improvements in health have lowered the need for heart transplants.  Additionally, there's organ sharing, a practice that gives hearts to those on the most urgent list instead of strictly on geographical location.  Saint Francis says since that policy started more than 50% of donor hearts from Oklahoma donors have been transported out of state.

That means it simply can't keep up with the requirement to perform 10 procedures a year in order to get reimbursed from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid.  So now, Tulsans will likely have to go to Oklahoma City for a new heart.

"It was either one would have to step aside for the good of the other, so Saint Francis made the decision. I hate it," said Chuck Stophel.

Saint Francis will still be able to offer care to those who have received transplants.  They say they have a team of doctors who are more than qualified.