State of the heart cath lab opens in Easton
EASTON — Receiving access to cardiac procedures on the Eastern Shore can be difficult and — in the case of an acute heart attack — deadly, but not anymore.
On May 2, University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton held a ribbon cutting unveiling its new state-of-the-heart Cardiac Catheterization Laborator y.
The new laboratory will aid in providing care on the Mid-Shore that patients previously would have had to travel elsewhere to receive.
The hospital in Easton had one catheterization lab already, however procedures done there were purely elective and they were unable to assist with heart emergencies. Now with the capability of two labs, the hospital is able to provide both elective procedures and emergency cardiac care.
In the past someone experiencing a cardiac emergency was typically taken to other facilities anywhere from a half hour to an hour away, and it is those precious minutes that could cost the patient their lives.
“Time is muscle,” said Dr. Gary Jones, regional director of cardiovascular and pulmonary services. “So for ever y minute of delay there is potential loss for viable heart muscle until the blood has been restored to that area.”
“There is 90-minute window,” Jones said. “That is the magic number and the clock starts ticking the minute 911 is called.”
Jones said over the past several years he and administrators from the hospital met with officials from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems to review exactly how many patients have suffered heart attacks in the area and the incredible number of patients who needed to have these procedures done.
He said then unfortunately they looked at how many of them had to be transferred sometimes 60 to 90 minutes away for those timely acute heart attacks.
Jones said that is the reason for their direction and vision to start this program. He said Easton was geographically the perfect spot to meet the needs of patients that were experiencing a much longer delay in being provided these services.
Jones said those delays were due to traffic, weather, or just the mere distance a patient needs to travel to receive the necessary care.
“If you were to draw a radius of response time around the approved hospitals in the state that provide these services, on the western shore there is a tremendous amount of options for patients within 20 minutes — but when you draw that same radius around the middle Eastern Shore there are large voids of areas that require a longer response time,” he said.
Jones said the hospital filed for the funding two years ago, and last year on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, they heard from the state, the funding was approved and he said he remembers it clearly because he and the cardiologist went out and celebrated with a green beer.
Dr. Jeffery Etherton is part of the lab’s team. There also is Dr. Benjamin Remo and Dr. Gabriel Sardi. Etherton and Remo are the newest members.
Etherton said Shore Medical Center now has “one of the best labs in the state.” Etherton said. “A state-of-the-art lab with all the equipment and things that you would need to have these procedures performed.”
But Etherton said it’s not only the equipment that makes this new unit so special.
“It’s the human aspect of it too,” Etherton said. “We have assembled a team whose specialty is to assist us performing these procedures — we have highly skilled nurses and technicians working beside us. It’s that all together package that makes it a state-of the art.”
Since the lab opened in the end of March, the teams have performed 20 interventions on an elective basis.
“Several of them have been fairly difficult procedures,” Etherton said. “They are ones that in the past that would have been done in Washington, Baltimore or Philadelphia but we were able to do them here.”
Jones said there will still be patients from the region who still will be taken to other approved centers simply because the transport time will be quicker.
“It’s not about getting everyone to come here,” Etherton said. “It’s about getting the patient to the care they need within that 90-minute window. It’s a matter of what is the best overall outcome for the patient.”
Jones said it is important to acknowledge the wonderful emergency service providers, the postop nurses and everyone else who aids in saving and ensuring the lives of their patients. He said it is a team effort from start to finish.
On Tuesday, May 2, University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new state-of-the-art Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.