Wednesday July 6, 2011

Health News

Helping Hearts

Heli-jet moves Chilliwack heart attack patients to RCH faster

Released by Roy-Thorpe Dorward, FHA/Voice file photos


hen someone experiences a severe heart attack, a quick medical response can be a matter of life or death. Minutes really do count.


To deliver the best care possible, Fraser Health and B.C. Ambulance Service have joined forces to provide rapid response helicopter service to airlift critical cardiac patients from the Chilliwack and Fraser Canyon areas for treatment at Royal Columbian Hospital - the region's trauma and tertiary cardiac centre in New Westminster. The Royal Columbian has one of the largest acute myocardial infarct programs in Canada since inception in 2003.

"This new partnership protocol between Fraser Health and B.C. Ambulance Services means that the specialized care available at Royal Columbian Hospital is quickly available to those who need it most, even in our most remote communities," said Barry Penner, MLA Chilliwack-Hope in a release Tuesday.

Until recently, heart attack patients from the eastern Fraser Valley were first transported by road to either Fraser Canyon Hospital (FCH) or Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH) before being transferred to Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH), where cardiac specialists perform angioplasty or other life-saving intervention. However, land transportation in an ambulance to RCH from eastern Fraser Valley communities can take 90 minutes to more than two hours if the roads are congested.

Now, under a new joint BCAS and Fraser Health program, called the STEMI Launch Protocol, a helicopter crew can transport a heart attack patient from Hope or Chilliwack to RCH in under 30 minutes.


"This new protocol put in place by Fraser Health and B.C. Ambulance Services will save lives in the eastern Fraser Valley where heart attack patients will benefit from having quick access to the cardiac specialists at Royal Columbia Hospital, which is more than 100 kilometers away for some communities," said John Les, MLA Chilliwack.


"This is a significant step forward for our region assuring that all of Fraser Health's population has access to the best care possible for patients suffering heart attacks," agreed Dr. Nigel Murray, President and CEO, Fraser Health.

The protocol includes the participation of a team of on-ground BCAS primary (PCP) and advanced care paramedics (ACP), critical care flight paramedics (CCP), Victoria and Vancouver air dispatch crews and Helijet Airways.

Once critical heart attack patients are indentified in the field by BCAS Advanced Care paramedics, Helijet pilots are alerted to rendezvous at airfields near Fraser Canyon Hospital in Hope or in Chilliwack. Once in flight, critical care paramedics accompany the patient to administer necessary monitoring and treatment.

"Time is of the essence when someone is having a heart attack. The sooner that you can get somebody who has started having a heart attack to where they need to be to unblock the artery disease causing a heart attack the better off they will be," explained Dr. Gerald Simkus, Medical Program Director, Cardiac Service, Fraser Health.


Meanwhile, Royal Columbian Hospital medical crews are notified to prepare to take the patient and receive critical information about the patient's status, including information from electrocardiogram (ECG) readings that are taken by paramedics in the field and transmitted directly to RCH. While in flight, the cardiac team can prepare the cath-lab suite for the patient's arrival.

Due to Fraser Health's large geographical area, the STEMI launch program will cut transport time to a fraction while significantly increasing a patient's chances of full recovery and survival. The team's fast response can help minimize damage to the heart and improve outcomes for the patient. This means less time spent in the hospital and a better recovery, and it may even mean the difference between life and death for some patients.

The STEMI Launch Protocol also means that nurses and physicians from FCH and ambulance crews who transport these patients to RCH will now be away for much shorter time periods, allowing them to be more quickly available to other patients who may need care.

The STEMI Launch program started May 25, 2011 and has thus far transported six patients to Royal Columbian for critical cardiac care.

Information About Heart Attacks

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