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Stakeholders make plea to B.C. government for cardiac cath lab in Nanaimo

Better cardiology care needed to serve aging population in central and north Island, advocates say
Dr. Hesam Keshmiri, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital lead cardiologist, front, addresses the media on Tuesday, Aug. 8. He is flanked by Dr. David Coupland, NRGH medical staff president, left, Donna Hais, community health care advocate, and Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Stakeholders are pleading to the B.C. government for assistance in establishing a hospital unit to aid people in the Nanaimo region who suffer heart attacks.

An advocacy group, including doctors, community leaders and concerned citizens, held a press conference in Nanaimo Tuesday, Aug. 8, stating that a cardiac catheterization lab and cardiology services for the central and north Island are needed, especially given aging demographics. The nearest such facility is in Victoria.

Dr. David Coupland, president of the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital medical staff, said the population of central and north Vancouver Island is approaching 450,000, which is greater than the south Island.

“We’re older, we’re growing faster, and we have a greater burden of all types of cardiac disease … This includes heart attacks, heart failure, angina and hardening of the arteries,” he said. “Yet we have one cardiologist and a second coming at NRGH, few cardiac services and no cardiac cath lab, versus south Island, which has 21 to 22 cardiologists, two cardiac cath labs, all cardiac services, and cardiac surgery. The inequity is obvious.”

In addition, Coupland pointed out that access to a cardiac catheterization lab is the standard of care for people suffering heart attacks.

“For a big heart attack, access and opening of the blocked arteries needs to occur within 90 minutes. This rarely happens for patients in central [and] north Island…” he said. “The lack of cardiac services leads to undue harm to our patients, higher morbidity, mortality, poor quality of life and increased cost to patients and the system.”

According to Dr. Hesam Keshmiri, lead cardiologist at NRGH, specialized equipment is needed.

“You need the equipment, with the stents and the catheters and the guide wires and things like that to be able to deploy the stent and open up the arteries, which then will require a lot of staffing, including the interventionalist, the lab technicians, the nurses, and so on,” he said.

A coronary care unit, where patients would receive care both before and after angiograms, would also be required, he added.

The Regional District of Nanaimo has been preparing for the need for a cath lab, said Ian Thorpe, Nanaimo Regional Hospital District board chairperson, as taxpayers in the regional hospital district will be responsible for 40 per cent of capital costs. A hospital tax levy has more than doubled over the past three years.

“It will continue to increase…” Thorpe said. “You know, usually politicians won’t stand up and brag about tax increases, but this is one that I am happy to talk about and happy to defend because it represents a huge statement of our commitment to health-care projects here.”

The B.C. Ministry of Health has been contacted for comment.

RELATED: Island Health expands Nanaimo heart health clinic

READ ALSO: HAU being built at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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