EASTON — The University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton recently was designated as a Cardiac Interventional Center by Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems.

Thanks to its new, state-of-the-art Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory that opened last March, the hospital has been able to perform 150 to 180 elective and primary angioplasty procedures. Since being designated as an CIC on Feb. 27, it has performed nine emergency interventions.

“Within the first eight hours, we had three,” said Dr. Gary Jones, regional director of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Services for University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton.

Jones said one of the first CIC patients was brought in by ambulance from St. Michaels. He said the man was in “full-blown cardiac arrest.” Once they were able to get the patient into the lab, doctors found a clogged artery and were able to open it up.

“I think in this case, he would not of made it across the bridge, Jones said. “With his condition and what we found, if that had prolonged in time, I don’t know if he would of made it to a different CIC center.”

Jones said on Monday, March 12, alone they were able to treat two patients who otherwise would have been taken to other facilities in Maryland or even Delaware.

During the past year, the hospital has been able to help patients who had walked into in the emergency department with symptoms of chest pains, including completing an assessment and performing diagnostic testing and interventions electively when necessary.

“So it was interesting to be in the cath lab and see an isolated little lesion in somebody’s coronary artery and say 20 minutes from now that could be done,” Jones said. “But because we couldn’t do it here, we had to load the patient and sometimes the cardiologist to Baltimore and finish the procedure there.”

Additionally, if a patient had called 911 from their home and needed immediate cardiac care, the paramedics had to take the patient to the nearest CIC, bypassing Easton hospital all together.

“So for Easton, that could’ve meant Salisbury or Anne Arundel. For Caroline, it could’ve meant Nanticoke or even Dover. Up in Kent County, it could’ve meant Dover or Christiana, and in Dorchester, most likely meant Salisbury,” Jones said. “The consequence of that is just the geography of getting a patient with an acute obstruction of a coronary artery to a center that is far away geographically (and) had some potential for heart muscle damage.”

Trena Williamson, regional director of communications and marketing for UMSH, explained the realization of that hurdle.

“So if you were having an ST elevated heart attack across the street, they would’ve taken you from across the street and driven you to another place,” Williamson said. “That is all that time you are losing.”

“It really is about, time is muscle,” Jones said. “All the EMS agencies are well aware of the travel time from wherever they are picking up a patient to the closest CIC center, and they are going to make that decision, and it will be the right one.”

He said there still are going to be pockets on the Mid-Shore where going to a different facility will be closer than coming to Easton, and that is determined by the protocols of MIEMS.

“MEIMS has a great deal of impact on pre-hospital care,” Jones said. “For years, they have designated trauma centers, more recently stroke centers and cardiac interventional centers.”

Jones said during the past several years, he and administrators at the hospital met with officials from MIEMS to review exactly how many patients have suffered heart attacks in the area and the number of patients who needed to have these procedures done.

He said then they looked at how many of them had to be transferred sometimes 60 to 90 minutes away for those treatment.

But those findings alone are not enough to earn the designation. For MIEMS to designate the hospital as a CIC, it had to undergo an extensive application and review process. The application was more than 460 pages.

“There is a very exacting process on how to go about getting reviewed and then approved and then designated,” Jones said. “We submitted the application in October, had a site survey in December. and then they had 45 days to make a determination on the application, and on Feb. 27, the hospital became designated.”

Currently, there are two teams heading up the CIC lab, with hopes of adding a third team in the near future. Dr. Jeffery Etherton and Dr. Gabriel Sardi are the lead cardiologists for the program.

Jones said the University of Maryland Health System always is evaluating its standards to keep ahead and appraised of changes within the delivery of health care.

“There is a constant evolution of improvement on stints and balloons and alternatives to opening up coronary arteries,” Jones said. “Those things represent possibilities. We are part of the University of Maryland System. There is a phenomenal amount of sharing information and collaboration.”

Jones said every other month they hold a quality conference call with other interventional cardiologist who are also part of the system.

“It is an open academic discussion on what we are doing versus other areas,” Jones said. “It is a great collaborative effort.”

Follow me on Twitter @Dspiering617.

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