Electrophysiology (EP) studies the electrical activity of the heart to determine where an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) is coming from. Tests must be performed in an EP Lab, a highly specialized medical diagnostic environment. Photo: KGHFoundation.com

New advanced heart rhythm program opens for Interior Health patients

Medical internists provide cardiac care in Trail, Cranbrook, Vernon, Salmon Arm, and Penticton

Cardiac patients in Greater Trail and across the Kootenay Boundary will welcome the news that a new advanced heart rhythm program has opened at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH).

Interior Health (IH) announced this new program last week, explaining that it came to fruition in a partnership between IH, Cardiac Services BC and the KGH Foundation, which raised $7 million for the program.

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Interior Health provided an example about how critical this new resource will be for IH patients, by sharing the story of an Okanagan woman who suffered a heart attack and was quickly treated in the new unit.

When Penticton resident Betty Lou Thomas woke up in her local hospital’s intensive care unit, she had no memory of what had happened. The last thing she remembered was sitting in a waiting room at her gym on a fall November day. That is when she suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed without warning. Twenty-four hours later, she was transferred to the cardiac care unit at KGH.

Luckily for Betty, just a few days earlier the new Marshall Eliuk Cardiac Interventional and Advanced Heart Rhythm Program had opened at KGH, meaning she did not have to travel any farther for care.

After a series of tests, Betty had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) surgically inserted in her chest in the newly completed KGH Electrophysiology Lab, which opened as part of the advanced heart rhythm program. The ICD is designed to shock her heart back into normal rhythm if necessary. The day after the procedure, she was back home in Penticton, resting and recovering.

“Honestly, it was a phenomenal experience,” said Betty. “Even though it was a scary procedure and scary what happened, I felt very comfortable. Everyone was so knowledgeable. We are lucky to have this in Kelowna. Now, for everyone who needs this in the Interior, it’s so close, rather than us going to Victoria.”

Opening the Electrophysiology Lab at KGH allowed Interior Health to add the advanced heart rhythm program to other specialty cardiac services at the hospital, including medical cardiology and cardiac surgery inpatient units, a coronary care unit, a cardiac surgery intensive care unit, cardiac imaging and an intervention lab. Patients from across the Interior region who need higher-level cardiac care can now access the full range of services in Kelowna.

As well, services are available at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, where there is a coronary care unit, medical cardiology inpatient unit, and cardiac outpatient clinics. In addition, internal medicine specialists provide cardiac care in Cranbrook, Vernon, Salmon Arm, Penticton and Trail.

“Congratulations to everyone involved in this effort to enhance cardiac services for residents of Interior Health,” said IH Board Chair Doug Cochrane. “The partnership between Interior Health, Cardiac Services BC and the KGH Foundation demonstrates how collaboration can be the basis of enhancing patient care. This new program will benefit many people in our region.”

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Community support for the program was critical and the KGH Foundation’s call to raise money for advanced heart rhythm services struck a chord with donors. In less than a year, the foundation raised $7 million for the needed equipment in the Electrophysiology (EP) Lab.

“We are grateful to be the bridge between such an incredibly generous community and our regional partners in health care,” says Doug Rankmore, CEO of the KGH Foundation. “The addition of electrophysiology and advanced heart rhythm services at KGH as part of Interior Health’s cardiac program are significant advancements that we can all celebrate.”

The establishment of the EP Lab at KGH not only enhances care for patients in IH, it contributes to an expanding network for cardiac services within the province. Patients across B.C. will benefit because of an overall increase in capacity for the management of heart rhythm disorders.

For cardiac patients like Betty Lou Thomas, having services closer to her Penticton home made a hard situation that much easier. Betty is grateful her experience took place just about an hour from her hometown instead of having to travel much farther.

“It’s wonderful for our community that we have this service because heart problems are something so many people have. This can happen to anybody and we are lucky to have such an efficient and effective service so close to home,” she said.

KGH is now the fifth adult EP program in the province, alongside Royal Jubilee Hospital, Vancouver General Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital and Royal Columbian Hospital. This additional expertise and lab capacity will enhance service delivery throughout the province and improve B.C.’s capacity to provide specialized services to patients province-wide. Learn more about province-wide cardiovascular care and services at www.cardiacbc.ca


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