By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - While Bert Fish Medical Center is waiting for the right merger partner, it's also updating its oncology and cardiac services to keep pace with the latest in medical treatment.
Both projects, totaling $7.7 million, have been in the works for several years, said Cheryl Kennison, hospital spokeswoman.
A comprehensive heart center that opened recently has two state-of-the art catheterization labs, staffed with cardiac care nurses and technicians working under cardiologists.
The hospital will have an open house for the Heart Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3. Reservations can be made at http://bertfish.com/events. An open house was held earlier for the cancer center.
Staff in the new cath labs are trained in the latest procedures, said Natalie Troy, lab manager.
While Southeast Volusia's only medical center had one cath lab, the addition of the second lab will allow a broader range of procedures to be done, Ms. Kennison said. These include routine diagnostic cardiac catheterizations and elective and emergency coronary interventions.
Bert Fish staff also can perform pacemaker and intracardiac defibrillator insertions. Using fully-digital advanced imaging technology, the clinicians are able to view detailed areas of a patient's cardiovascular anatomy.
"Paired with an integrated data system that allows physicians to access the patient's complete, up-to-date cardiac file at any time and from any location, we can treat our patients with minimal side effects and maximum benefit," Ms. Kennison said.
Two years ago the hospital acquired a license to treat heart disease with stents and angioplasty, said Steven Harrell, hospital administrator.
The two cath labs are in the new comprehensive Heart Center, which has areas for prepping patients for procedures, rooms for the catheterizations and other procedures, a recovery area and patient rooms for those who need to stay overnight.
Other treatments may include vascular procedures, inserting stents and clearing blockages in other areas, such as legs or arms.
Ms. Kennison said projections and studies on growth in the area showed the need for two cardiac labs.
Even before the new Heart Center was completed, doctors were using the latest radial artery puncture procedure, going through the wrist instead of the groin for catheterizations.
About 80 to 90 percent of the catheterization procedures are done this way at Bert Fish, Ms. Troy said.
"There is less discomfort to the patient, less cost and lower risk of infection with the radial artery procedure than the femoral artery procedure," Ms. Kennison said.
Most patients recover in a recliner and then are able to go home the same day.
She said the hospital is hoping to increase the cardiac care program down the road.
"We have equipment that will allow full expansion of vascular services, and we're looking at that," said Ms. Kennison. "Long term, there are a lot of approaches we can take."
Improvements to the Cancer Center at Bert Fish feature a new linear accelerator, a machine that uses high radiation beams to target cancer. Oncology patients are able to receive both chemotherapy and radiation at Bert Fish, Mr. Harrell said.
Patients have had to drive elsewhere for radiation in recent years when the old linear accelerator at Bert Fish had become obsolete, he said.
The hospital operates its cancer facilities through a partnership with Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, which provides physicians and shares expenses. Halifax also shared in the cost of the $3.7 million linear accelerator.
Having a partner could help the hospital keep up with the latest procedures, Mr. Harrell said.
"The hospital is doing well but with health care reform looming in the future, small stand-alone hospitals will find it difficult to succeed in that environment," he said. "We'd like to secure a partner to ensure the long-term future of the hospital."