Heart care closer to home

It's a first for Kelowna General Hospital and it's great news for cardiac health patients.

The open heart surgery program began last week after the first operation was successfully performed outside the lower Mainland and Victoria.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid came to city to celebrate the milestone occasion during a small ceremony at the Clinical Academic Campus lecture theatre.

Luke Brockholm a 54-year-old maintenance and operations supervisor at the Penticton Airport was also in attendance. He was the first patient for the program.

Brockholm says it was convenient to have the operation so close to home, especially for his wife.

"She doesn't have to stay in a hotel down there (Vancouver) if I am here. For me being there (in the lower Mainland) probably wouldn't have made that big of a difference, but the fact you can get out and be home in a little under an hour that meant a lot to me."

The operation took several hours to complete and Brockholm was discharged after four days.

The Medical Director of Interior Health and Cardiac Surgery Program Dr. Guy Fradet performed Brockholm's procedure and says he was a prime candidate because of his age and he was a low risk.

Since Brockholm's surgery Fradet has performed one to two operations a day and says that will continue until the end of the fiscal year in April.

"We will have done about 155 cases by then and the plan is to wrap up about 600 a year," explains Fradet.

Cardiac surgery was perviously only performed at four hospitals in the province: Royal Columbian Hospital, Royal Jubilee Hospital, St. Paul's Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital.

When MacDiarmid was asked if there is a possibility of more facilities similar to the new Heart and Surgical Centre else where in BC, she replied there were no plans in the works.

"I don't think there is the volume anywhere else at this point. Depending on population it could grow at some time in the future. It could happen."

In 2009 KGH also became the first hospital in the BC interior to perform percutaneous coronary interventions or angioplasties. Since the program started in November 2009, almost 3000 procedures have been performed.

Although the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre is still being constructed, surgeries are taking place in two other renovated operating rooms at KGH. The centre is expected to be fully operational in mid 2015.

The Central Okanagan Regional Hospital District contributed over $70 million to the project.

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