While our team at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) has been busy responding to the many changes that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, our commitment to implementing new models of care and different ways to deliver care to improve patient outcomes has remained steadfast.
Through advancements in cardiac care and incredible partnerships we have developed, earlier in May Muskoka joined the Simcoe Muskoka Code STEMI Protocol. ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) is a very serious type of heart attack during which one of the heart’s major arteries is blocked. Using Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI, formerly known as angioplasty with stent), a catheter is used to place a balloon and stent to open up blood vessels in the heart that have been narrowed by plaque buildup. It is a non-surgical procedure that can be facilitated in the Cardiac Intervention Unit at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH). This protocol partnership with RVH provides a direct line to interventionist cardiologists and the gold standard of care where a patient receives advanced cardiac care in less than 120 minutes from first medical contact.
This means that some Muskoka residents with heart attack symptoms may now be transported by Muskoka Paramedic Services directly to RVH in Barrie for their lifesaving treatment. Paramedics have the cardiac monitoring equipment and the clinical expertise and training to quickly and accurately identify elevations in the heart rhythm, and more specifically a STEMI. That is why it’s so important to call 9-1-1 if you experience symptoms of a heart event like chest discomfort, sweating, neck and jaw discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea and light-headedness. The ambulance will bypass our hospitals and go straight to RVH. Time is heart and the sooner a blockage can be opened, the less damage to cells in the heart muscle.
|Code STEMI simulations with nurses, doctors and paramedics were held at both sites in preparation for the new protocol.|
MAHC is also participating in the protocol for patients who present to our Emergency Departments with symptoms. One week after the protocol went live in Muskoka, three patients presenting at each of our sites received cardiac care through the STEMI protocol, and a further patient bypassed our two sites altogether and went straight to RVH through local EMS.
Dr. Megan Stephenson, a longtime Emergency physician in Huntsville, says it’s exciting to be a part of the joint initiative of Muskoka hospitals, RVH’s Interventional Cardiology program and Muskoka Paramedic Services to bring state-of-the-art cardiac care to the community’s doorstep.
“For heart attack patients who meet the criteria, cardiac catheterization can be performed at RVH in a timely fashion to reduce morbidity and mortality,” explains Dr. Stephenson. “Our first patient encounter on Tuesday, May 11, demonstrated a true collaboration among nurses, paramedics, ward clerks and physicians to expedite the care of a heart attack patient.”
Dr. William Hemens has been an emergency medicine physician in Bracebridge for 35 years and was on shift at the South Muskoka site when two patients presented the morning of May 11. As a clinician, he is pleased at how cardiac care has developed over time, and proud as a local resident to have access to advanced cardiac services in the region. He praised the partnerships that have conquered geography and distance to achieve a streamlined protocol that supports timely care.
“This protocol is so important to facilitating the patient’s coronary intervention to return proper blood flow to the heart muscle to diminish the potential damage of a heart attack faster than before, which is so reassuring for our communities” says Dr. Hemens. “It’s also important for communities to support hospitals in achieving these advancements by donating to the equipment and facilities that allow for these services to grow and develop. It’s because of donors that health care providers can deliver state-of-the-art care.”
This is a positive and progressive change that provides access to care that residents of Muskoka deserve and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of it!