When someone is having a heart attack, seconds count. Not only for survival, but also for quality of life down the road. Yet, for many years, too much time was spent “on the road” transporting Alameda County residents to distant hospitals in cardiac emergencies as state-of the-art cardiac equipment was lacking at Highland.
Flash forward to today where, thanks to the Alameda Health System Foundation and the funds it raised in the community, a high tech Combined Cardiac Catheterization Lab and Angiography Suite (aka “cath lab” and “angio suite”) is in full operation 24/7 to answer the distress call. The team and the equipment saw its first case on opening day in 2011.
Today, it is designated as a STEMI Receiving Center and Cardiac Arrest Receiving Center, the first center to receive this designation for advanced capabilities in more than a decade in the East Bay region.
State-of-the-Art Cardiac Care
A STEMI is a heart attack in which a clogged coronary artery prevents blood from getting to the heart. A patient suffering a STEMI usually need an angioplasty within a very short timeframe. As a STEMI Receiving Center, Highland is able to care for 75 to 100 severe heart attack cases a year that in the past had to be transported to other hospitals. Patients in desperate condition are able to receive care faster, which is a key factor in survival. Highland now provides a level of care to Alameda County residents that few hospitals can match. In fact, only a quarter of US hospitals have this designation.
Never one to sit on its laurels, Highland’s Interventional Services Department determined to meet what for cath labs is considered the gold standard in staff excellence: that is, for 100% of its nurses to be certified as Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialists, evidence of top quality care. AHS met and exceeded this goal in summer 2013—with 100% of the entire team certified!
Reflecting on all that has been achieved in the past few years, Heather Duke, Director of Cardiovascular Services/Radiology, stated: “We are happy and proud to offer these state-of-the-art medical services to our community. We’re here to save lives and that’s exactly what our new STEMI-Cardiac Receiving Center designation empowers us to do.”
Indeed. Numerous lives have been saved, outcomes have improved, and patients have had more comfortable treatment with less time in the hospital—all of which underscore AHS’s commitment to offering the best quality care possible to all residents of Alameda County.
Why This Program Matters
Residents of Alameda County who are uninsured or have other barriers to accessing preventive cardiac care and exams are usually presented for the first time in the Highland Hospital Trauma Center with the most serious heart problems and conditions that, in many cases, are life threatening. While such conditions could have been detected earlier, clinicians need to do everything possible in the moment to save a life. A major strategic goal of Alameda Health System is to help communities in Alameda County address the disparities that exist among various populations. That is why more cardiac programs and interventional services, along with access to preventive care, are being planned.