Health Minister Edwin Poots has visited a new state-of the-art Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI) service at Altnagelvin hospital that will help save the lives of heart attack patients.
Patients suffering from a heart attack will be taken immediately to a catheterisation laboratory (Cath Lab) to have a blockage in the blood vessels around their heart removed using a balloon or stent.
The Minister said: “I am very glad to have had the opportunity to see at first hand the service being delivered in this state-of-the-art new facility. Cardiac Catheterisation Labs can be of enormous benefit to patients having a heart attack, allowing them to bypass the Emergency Department and go straight to the lab for treatment. This new service was introduced in June 2014 and is already having an impact. The next stage is for the service to move to 24/7 service provision.”
Approximately 40% of hospitalised heart attack patients have a STEMI. This type of heart attack happens when the blood supply to one of the heart’s arteries is cut off completely as a result a blood clot.
High quality care for these patients includes early diagnosis and rapid treatment to reopen the blocked artery. Until now most STEMIs in Northern Ireland were treated by giving patients a clot-busting drug (thrombolysis). Patients in the Western Trust will previously have been treated by a paramedic or at Altnagelvin / South West Acute hospital followed by planned PCI which was only available in Belfast prior to this service development in the west of the province.
Dr Albert McNeill, Consultant Cardiologist and Clinical Lead, Western Trust said: “If a patient has a STEMI heart attack, they will be taken directly to Altnagelvin Hospital for a primary percutaneous intervention (PPCI) which is a procedure to open the heart artery which has blocked. This procedure is done by inserting a fine tube called a catheter in the patient’s wrist artery, passing through to the heart and opening the heart artery with a balloon on the catheter.
“Although other ways to open a heart artery have been used in the past for example by using “clot busting “ or thrombolytic drugs, research, clinical evidence and international guidelines indicate that PPCI is the treatment of choice for patients with STEMI, which saves lives, reduces complications, speeds recovery and shortens length of hospital stay.”
Commenting on the future provision of a 24/7 service and the current financial challenges facing his department the Minister continued saying: “It is no secret that the Health Service is facing financial challenges, but my primary concern always has to be the patient. I strongly support the opening of the 24/7 Catheterisation Lab in Altnagelvin, which could potentially benefit hundreds of patients each year, and would want the full range of services to be available there as soon as possible.
“I am disappointed that further funding has not yet been made available but nonetheless I want the 24/7 primary PCI service to go ahead because it is a vital one for the people of Northern Ireland. I remain hopeful that further funding can be provided to ensure the 24/7 service becomes firmly established for the long term.” Following the visit to the new Cath Labs, the Minister went on to meet staff in the hospital’s Emergency Department. He continued saying: “I know that Altnagelvin ED have performed well against 12 and four hour targets, a tribute to the hard work of all staff in ED, however, there are still improvements that can be made.
“It is important that the whole system works together to support patient care, this includes GPs, the ambulance service, community care teams as well as those who work in acute hospitals.”