At Manhasset hospital, they’re a liver to their people

Transplant team: Northwell Health doctors (from left) Maria Sfakianos, Lewis Teperman, Matthew Bank and Elliot Grodstein at North Shore University Hospital's new Surgical and Transplant ICU.

Long Island’s first adult liver-transplant program has been green-stamped by state health officials.

The Sandra Atlas Bass Center for Liver Diseases, housed inside North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, will begin prioritizing surgical candidates later this month, now that the New York State Department of Health has approved Northwell Health’s new liver-transplant program.

The program “opens access to critically ill patients in an underserved area that stretches from Suffolk and Nassau counties to Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island,” according to Northwell Health, which says nearly half of the 1,100-plus New York State residents awaiting liver transplants live within the health system’s “catchment area.”

“Nearly five people die each day in the United States waiting for a liver that will never come,” Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling said Monday. “By establishing an adult liver-transplant program on Long Island, we’re changing the narrative for thousands of New Yorkers living with this fatal disease.”

The NYS Department of Health’s Public Health Planning Council first granted “contingent approval” of the liver-transplant program in February 2018.

Michael Dowling: New narrative for LI liver patients.

The Center for Liver Diseases officially opens 16 months after Northwell Health surgeons successfully performed the Long Island region’s first heart transplant at NSUH’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital. It continues the health system’s multimillion-dollar renovation of Manhasset hospital, which already included the opening of a 13,000-square-foot intensive care unit and the debut of two state-of-the-art surgical suites.

The liver-transplant program, developed in partnership with Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center, also arrives on the heals of new organ-procurement rules proposed by the Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing, designed to reorganize regional subdivisions into a new system that would offer organs first to critical patients located within 575 miles of donor hospitals – a potential advantage for patients in hospital-heavy New York.

The Sandra Atlas Bass Center for Liver Diseases already provides pre- and post-liver transplant services, along with end-stage liver-disease care. Northwell has recruited a number of experts to facilitate the new transplant program, including transplant surgeons Elliot Grodstein, who recently completed a fellowship in abdominal transplant surgery at the University of Wisconsin, and Lawrence Lau, who most recently served with Toronto General Hospital’s Multiorgan Transplant Program.

“The burden of end-stage liver disease is enormous for Long Islanders, who in the past were forced to look elsewhere for life-saving treatment,” Lewis Teperman, NSUH vice chairman of surgery and Northwell Health’s director of organ transplantation, said in a statement. “It’s time that care for these patients be provided close to home with a minimum of disruption to their lives and that of their caregivers.”