The first phase of this service includes patients in Stratford and the town of St. Marys, plus some rural areas of the county, who are within a 30-minute ambulance trip to St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener or University Hospital in London. Phase two is for patients within a 45-minute trip to either hospital, which will allow access to other areas of the county like Listowel and Mitchell.
This expanded access to care is the result of a partnership between Perth County Emergency Medical Service, St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener, University Hospital in London, and the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance (Stratford and St. Marys sites), along with Listowel Memorial Hospital.
Eligible patients are those experiencing an acute ST elevation myocardical infarction (STEMI). This is a type of heart attack in which flow of oxygen-carrying blood is blocked and, heart muscle begins to die with each passing moment, diminishing the heart’s ability to keep beating. The cardiac centres in Kitchener and London offer the gold standard in heart attack treatment which is to have the blocked artery open with angioplasty within 90 minutes of the first medical contact.
Angioplasty involves threading a balloon catheter through the groin or arm to a blocked artery in the heart, inflating the balloon to open it and possibly inserting a stent to keep it open.
Paramedics in Perth County are now trained and equipped with electrocardiogram machines which allow paramedics to see if a patient is having a STEMI heart attack. If so, paramedics can contact St. Mary’s in Kitchener or University Hospital in London to discuss the patient’s condition, and then proceed to that hospital immediately, bypassing the other local hospitals which do not offer these services.
When paramedics arrive at the Kitchener or London hospitals they will go directly to the cardiac catheterization lab for immediate patient assessment and treatment. This fast-track service is available at both hospitals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This latest expansion of access for patients in Perth County follows a protocol first introduced by St. Mary’s and Waterloo Region EMS in 2007. Access has been expanding to serve to as many patients as possible on a 24/7 basis, and reaching a broader catchment area.
“Each minute counts when a heart attack strikes,” says Dr. Danielle Leddy, medical lead for the Cardiac Catheterization Lab and Interventional Cardiology at St. Mary’s. Dr. Leddy says it is critical to call 911 and resist the urge to drive yourself to your local emergency department when you or a loved one experience symptoms of a heart attack, such as sudden onset of chest discomfort, arm or jaw discomfort, sweating or shortness of breath.
“This allows your assessment and care to begin while enroute, so if you need emergency angioplasty you can be taken directly to a hospital that provides it,” Dr. Leddy says.
Mary Cardinal, Vice President Clinical Services Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance, states that “time is muscle”. Expanding the STEMI protocol to a broader area and working in partnership with St. Mary’s Hospital in Kitchener and University Hospital in London are significant enhancements to the care available to individuals experiencing a heart attack, she says.
Anne Kelly Communications Specialist
St. Mary’s General Hospital
T.519-749-6578, ext. 1501
Vice President Clinical Programs
Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance
EMS Deputy Chief
Corporation of the County of Perth
T. 519-273-7382 x224