A surgeon whose sudden absence forced St. Charles Bend to divert heart and lung surgery patients to Portland earlier this month has left the hospital for good.

Dr. John Blizzard is no longer employed by St. Charles Medical Group, the physicians arm of St. Charles Health System, Kayley Mendenhall, a spokeswoman, said. Mendenhall would not discuss the reason Blizzard left.

Blizzard was the only full-time cardiothoracic surgeon on a team that included Drs. Angelo Vlessis and Anthony Furnary, both of whom worked part time in Central Oregon and part time in other communities.

Vlessis, who has worked primarily in Bend in the past, will take over full-time duty, hospital administrators said. They did not know exactly when Vlessis, who also works at OHSU Hospital in Portland, will start full-time duty.

In recent years Blizzard has been among the hospital’s highest-paid employees. He was the top earner in 2014 with a base salary of $942,094 and about $1 million in total compensation, according to the nonprofit hospital’s income statements to the Internal Revenue Service.

Blizzard graduated from medical school at the University of Mississippi in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1989 and was a resident at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and East Tennessee State University Medical Center.

He went on to do a fellowship in cardiovascular surgery at Oregon Health & Science University from 1996 to 1998, according to Oregon Medical Board records.

St. Charles announced Oct. 31 that it would suspend heart and lung surgeries until Nov. 10 and that urgent cases would be diverted to Portland. The hospital ended up diverting four cases — two heart surgeries and two lung surgeries — during that time frame.

Other patients’ nonurgent surgeries were rescheduled. The hospital continued to do cardiovascular stents, a common treatment for heart attacks.

At the time, Chief Physician Officer Jeff Absalon explained that the hospital’s one full-time cardiothoracic surgeon was suddenly unavailable for a 10-day shift, and the two other surgeons weren’t available to cover it.

St. Charles announced Nov. 10 that heart bypass and other heart and lung surgeries had resumed, but administrators would not say whether Blizzard had returned to regular duty.

Since then, the hospital has removed Blizzard’s name and photograph from its website.

Mendenhall confirmed late Monday that Blizzard was no longer employed at the hospital.

—Reporter: 541-617-7860,

kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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