Hospital gets national heart-attack care accreditation

By Joel Hall


Southern Regional Medical Center recently gained a mark of distinction shared by only four other hospitals in the state.

It has been recognized by the Society of Chest Pain Centers (SCPC) as a certified chest pain center with a specialty in performing angioplasty procedures.

The title of Chest Pain Center with PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as angioplasty) ensures that SRMC meets, or exceeds, national standards for cardiac care, and routinely performs angioplasty, a less-invasive alternative to open heart surgery.

In Georgia, the distinction is only held by the Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome, and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus.

"This is like putting the cherry on top of the sundae," said Donna Waggoner, managing director of heart and vascular services at SRMC. She said a patient can begin receiving angioplasty, or other life-saving heart procedures at SRMC, in under 90 minutes -- the national standard for hospitals with Chest Pain Center with PCI distinction.

In order to receive the recognition, Waggoner said for the hospital had to pass a lengthy inspection, evaluating what kind of equipment and procedures are used, how effectively they are used, and how knowledgeable staff members are about heart-care protocol.

"Two inspectors came aboard and spent the day with us, from 7 a.m., until about 4 p.m.," Waggoner said. "We had to present all our flow charts and algorithms from the time the first [ambulance] comes in. The staff have to be able to articulate that all the way through the process [of care].

"It's a protocol driven, systematic approach to patient management," Waggoner continued. "It helps us manage a patient at the critical, early stages of a heart attack, when treatment is most effective."

One key factor in the hospital's accreditation is how quickly emergency workers can get patients to the hospital. Landry Merkison, battalion chief of Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services, said the accreditation gives heart patients in Clayton County a better chance of living normal lives after an episode.

"There is a difference between surviving and having a quality of life," said Merkison. "That's what we strive for, to give those people a quality of life where they can still function. It's great that we were a big part of it."

According to Waggoner, the hospital has been performing angioplasty since June 2006 and has been receiving patients from throughout the south metro area. She said having the SCPC accreditation helps improve the "quality and consistency" of care at the hospital.

"Time is muscle," she said. "The heart muscle does not regenerate. Once it dies, it dies. Our accreditation says we have met or exceeded those care measures."

Warning signs of a heart attack:

· Mild chest pressure, aching, or burning that comes and goes.

· Chest discomfort that may be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn.

· Mild discomfort in the inner arm (especially the left arm), jaw, teeth, or other parts of the body, with or without chest discomfort.

· Chest discomfort that worsens with activity and subsides with rest.