Monday’s announcement that Kansas University Hospital plans to start a heart transplant program is great news for the hospital, as well as for patients who may someday need a new heart.
KU’s Center for Advanced Heart Care has been recognized by U.S. News and World Reports as one of America’s best, and it will be elevated to an even higher national ranking with Monday’s announcement.
The only heart procedures KU Hospital does not offer are transplants and several assist devices. Now, KU doctors will add both services to provide patients the full spectrum of heart care, from minor to critical.
This decision is bold and visionary, and the KU Hospital board, chaired by Robert Honse, the hospital’s President and CEO Bob Page and the entire staff of the hospital’s Advance Heart Care Program are to be congratulated for their commitment to this advancement.
Approximately 15 years ago, KU Hospital faced a dire predicament. It was weak and struggling, and its leaders had three alternatives: close the hospital, find a buyer or make the changes necessary to turn the situation around.
Due to the vision of former KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, the hospital became a stand-alone facility, instead of a state operation. In the next 15 years or so, KU Hospital has become recognized as greater Kansas City’s finest hospital, and its reputation has grown throughout the nation. It is ranked among the nation’s top 10 teaching hospitals.
With the upcoming departure of Barbara Atkinson, KU executive vice chancellor and dean of the KU medical school, there will be a far greater degree of cooperation between the medical school and KU Hospital. With new leadership at the medical school, the two entities will be able to combine their efforts, excellence and vision to build a powerhouse medical center.
There are sure to be critics or naysayers about the decision for KU Hospital to move into the heart transplant business, particularly because St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., also offers similar treatment. Some of this criticism or questioning will be reasonable, but some will be self-serving.
KU Hospital was severely criticized, rightfully so, for its poorly planned heart transplant effort that was shut down in 1995. Patients were brought to the hospital for the critical procedure, confined to their beds hoping for a new heart. Hearts were available but there were no surgeons to perform the operation. It was terribly damaging.
However, that was then, and KU Hospital today is a totally different hospital in every respect. Its open heart surgery program today is larger than St. Luke’s, which was long considered Kansas City’s best. KU performed 600 such operations last year compared with about 400 at St. Luke’s.
KU Hospital will have the only heart transplant program in the state. This will benefit Kansans who no longer will have to deal with health or insurance complications associated with going to another state to receive heart transplants.
KU Hospital has built its growth on two major goals: to be the best hospital in the country for patient care and to have the best possible outcome for its patients. There is a total commitment to quality in every facet of a patient’s hospital experience.
Successful hospitals, particularly hospitals known for their excellence, achieve this recognition due to the talent, work and commitment of an entire staff. This certainly is true at KU Hospital, but in the heart care area, there are four individuals whose talent, skill and commitment have played a significant role in advancing KU’s program: Dr. Jeffrey Kramer, Dr. Randall Genton, Dr. William Reed and Dr. Lynn Kindred. They, along with the doctors in general cardiology, electrophysiology, interventional cardiology, thoracic and cardiovascular surgery and cardiovascular research, have helped push the heart program forward.
KU Hospital’s rise to excellence and national prominence offers the perfect example of what vision and focus on excellence and leadership can achieve.
Based on the hospital’s record over the past 15 years, there is every reason to believe the heart transplant program will be a major success in every respect.