Bringing advanced cardiac care closer to home


11 Apr Bringing advanced cardiac care closer to home

Most recently RVH’s Cardiovascular program announced yet another increase in service to heart patients in the region. The program now provides 24/7 cardiology on-call coverage, regional access to Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) beds and access to cardiologists in its Urgent Cardiology Care Clinic.

“This means no matter where you live in Simcoe Muskoka you now have access to very specialized cardiology expertise at RVH. This is a significant improvement for anyone in the region who suffers a heart problem,” says Dr. Brad Dibble, RVH’s clinical director of its cardiovascular program. “It is great news and a huge stepping stone as RVH continues to develop its advanced cardiac care program, bringing this lifesaving service closer to home. Establishing the required infrastructure and paving the way for advanced cardiac care has been a high priority for RVH since 2007.”

And as fate would have it one of the very first patients to benefit from the increase in service was Jim Lowrie, an RVH volunteer and Dr. Dibble’s Grade 5 teacher.

“The care has been fantastic here,” says Lowrie, 82 and recovering from a heart attack. “Everyone has explained all the tests and procedures so well to us.”

Just a few more tests and Lowrie will be heading home after his two-week stay at RVH. He’s pleased most of his care was provided close to home in Barrie however, he has also had to travel outside the region for care several times.

RVH is working to change that by making advanced cardiac its highest clinical priority.

North Simcoe Muskoka is the only region in the province that does not currently provide advanced cardiac services to its residents, meaning 3,600 patients must travel outside the region for heart care every year. The health centre continues to work closely with the provincial government and Newmarket’s Southlake Regional Health Centre to develop an advanced cardiac program at RVH. The stand-alone unit will provide heart diagnostics and interventions, such as angiograms and angioplasty which are currently not available anywhere in Simcoe Muskoka.

This specialized advanced cardiac unit will ensure Simcoe Muskoka residents have access to the same “gold standard” of lifesaving care as patients throughout the rest of the province.

“Travelling for cardiac treatment is very inconvenient, but for people who are less mobile than I am, or who have family responsibilities, it is a real burden,” says Lowrie. “This increase in service is great, but bringing advanced cardiac care here would be amazing. I remember when the temporary radiation bunker was opened and for the first time we could provide cancer patients with life-saving radiation therapy. There was a young mom with breast cancer who spoke at the opening. She shared how not having to travel for treatment was such a blessing- like a weight lifted off of her shoulder. I’d like to see that kind of care close to home for cardiac patients as well.”

So would Dr. Dibble, who says that for now he’s pleased with the progress RVH is making, including, highly specialized staff, cardiologists and technology and the commitment of the provincial government to ensure residents of North Simcoe Muskoka have access to the same safe, “gold standard” of cardiac care as everyone else in Ontario.

“You have to remember that two years ago we only had one cardiologist and now we have seven soon to be 10. We have the only Cardiac (intensive) Care Unit (CCU) in the region, a dedicated Cardiac Renal Unit and now 24/7 physician cardiac coverage for this region,” says Dr. Dibble. “This is huge and has really taken us away from the days when we were a community hospital to a robust regional health centre delivering high quality advanced care.”  And there’s more to come just on the horizon.

“RVH is also in the process of purchasing new advanced diagnostic equipment and a cardiovascular reporting system that will provide our cardiologists with a comprehensive overview of their patients’ cardiac journey with access from virtually anywhere in the world,” says Selma Mitchell, operations director of RVH’s Cardiovascular & Renal Programs, Medical & Surgical Ambulatory Care. “RVH’s continues to bring advanced cardiac care to people throughout Simcoe Muskoka. This is a need, not a want, because when it comes to heart issues, time is muscle and residents need to get that life-saving cardiac care quickly.”​