A Long Island grandfather whose life was twice saved by the same heart surgeon joined the doctor Tuesday for the opening of one of the largest cardiac treatment facilities in the state.
Northwell Health officials cut a large blue ribbon to inaugurate the new Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital on its Manhasset campus. They simultaneously announced the closure of the health network’s esteemed cardiothoracic program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.
Instead of operating two major cardiac care centers 1.8 miles apart, Northwell chief executive Michael Dowling and a cadre of Northwell heart specialists said the health system could better serve patients with its programs under one roof. Northwell estimated the cost to integrate the two centers at more than $10 million. The new hospital was announced during a morning news conference Tuesday.
“This is a dream come true, something that has been planned for five-plus years,” said Dr. Barry Kaplan, co-director of the Bass Heart Hospital and chairman of cardiology.
He described the level of expertise from two centers as providing “a lot of talent in one building.”
The hospital boasts a staff of more than 700 and is equipped with five operating rooms, a 22-bed intensive care unit and eight cardiac catheterization labs.
Its rival, St. Francis: The Heart Center in nearby Roslyn, has long been ranked one of the nation’s top centers for cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, according to U.S. News & World Report.
One of the attendees at the opening, Alexander Mullery, 76, of Ridge, embraced Dr. Alan Hartman, a cardiothoracic surgeon and executive director of the new hospital.
Mullery said Hartman rescued him twice.
Hartman performed lifesaving valve surgery on Mullery in 1997. And last year, an aortic dissection threatened Mullery’s life again. A dissection is an extraordinarily serious condition, Hartman explained, marked by a tear in the inner layer of the aorta, the body’s main artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the branching vasculature. When the aorta ruptures, blood surges from the opening. Every second after that is precious, Hartman said.
Mullery had been diagnosed at a community hospital where the staff was incapable of handling the emergency. Hartman, summoned by phone and mindful there was no time to lose, ordered SkyHealth, Northwell’s medical helicopter, dubbed an ICU in the sky.
“It’s the best transport system anywhere in the world,” Hartman said.
Mullery, who attended the news conference with his wife, Lucy, and sons Thomas and Patrick, said he will never forget touchdown, arriving in Manhasset.
“When they brought me down the ramp, he was right there. It was very comforting,” Mullery said of seeing Hartman.
“Basically, we replaced his aorta,” Hartman said.
The patient had been on doctor’s orders not to play golf after last summer’s emergency, but was given the gift of a putter Tuesday as clearance to resume golfing.
Kaplan, meanwhile, a pioneer in radial angioplasty — guiding stents to a blocked coronary vessel through the artery in the arm — said doctors on the new hospital’s team have been standouts in the State Health Department’s periodic analysis of open-heart surgery and angioplasty.
Many of his colleagues, Kaplan said — himself included — have received double stars in the state report, equivalent to a grades of A-plus.