(BIVN) – A bill that would improve cardiac care services at Hilo medical center was advanced by the Senate Ways and means Committee on Wednesday.
SB1235 SD2 would appropriate funds to the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, which submitted testimony in strong support of the needed measure.
This measure seeks assistance with start-up costs for Hilo Medical Center (HMC) to provide interventional cardiology services 24/7. As a an emergency physician I can assure you that having this capability at HMC will be life saving for some and prevent disability for many more. That is because the treatment that will be available, intervention by a cardiologist to open a blocked blood vessel that is starving the heart of oxygen, can stop a heart attack as it is happening. With a team of trained personnel oncall 24/7 they can respond in minutes, in some cases even before the patient reaches the hospital, because ambulance paramedics can transmit abnormal EKGs to activate them.
Other therapies for heart attacks are available at HMC and transport to Oahu does occur, it’s just that the therapy that stops the damage quickest is currently not available. Every minute literally counts in terms of survival or how the heart functions afterwards. Treated soon enough, the patient may return to normal function, treated incompletely or too late, means death or living with the disability of a damaged poorly functioning heart.
Seven different hospitals on Oahu provide this service. The access to life-saving cardiac interventions that Oahu residents enjoy can be cost-effectively delivered at larger neighbor island acute care hospitals. Maui Memorial Medical Center has successfully provided this service to their community and HMC can do so as well. They
have the population size, intensive hospital support services and basic infrastructure to successfully deliver emergency cardiac interventions. The Legislature’s assistance with initial funds to build the program will allow HMC to provide this service to their community in a sustainable fashion in the future.
“Hilo Medical Center does NOT provide the acceptable standard of care for our chest pain patients and especially our patients actively having a heart attack,” said Emergency Physician Dr. Kathleen Katt, who provided a blunt assessment of the current situation. “We do not have the Interventional Cardiologists or an appropriately equipped and staffed catheritization lab to care for our patients. Unfortunately, we use the 2nd choice treatment which is much less effective AND much higher risk to use know as a “clot buster”. Our population on the Big Island, with its lack of preventative medicine and genetic predisposition, has a huge number people that suffer from heart attacks. I look these people in the eyes and have to treat them with a substandard medication. Then transport them away from their families to Oahu!! This is terrible.”