Lexington Medical Center, Duke partner for new heart program

By Ben Hoover - bio | email

LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) – Lexington Medical Center has signed an agreement with Duke to provide a full range of cardiovascular services in the Midlands.

Lexington Medical Center announced Tuesday that it will affiliate with Duke Medicine's heart program, one of the world's leading cardiovascular clinical research programs, to begin procedures including open heart surgery and elective angioplasty at Lexington Medical Center in 2011.

Duke Medicine is known to have one of the best heart programs, but Lexington Medical Center has tried for 10 years to make this happen. It was a struggle that went though the courts, the State House and even the governor's desk.

"If your dad is having a heart attack in our ER do you want him packaged up and ambulanced to go across town?" asked Dr. Aubrey Bryant. "No. You want him to go right across the hall."

Soon that will happen. Everyone at Lexington Medical Center is excited the hospital has teamed up with Duke to start a new cardiovascular program, an effort that will bring open-heart surgery to Lexington.

Perhaps no one is more "pumped" than Dr. Aubrey Bryant, the chief of staff on the front lines of the ER. "I've had to tell them that we could not provide those services previously and they would have to be packaged up and shipped across town, and that was a conversation I never liked to have," said Bryant.

Through its affiliation, Lexington Medical Center will benefit from Duke's clinical expertise and services to build a premier, comprehensive heart program.  Duke University Hospital, recognized as one of the top ten heart hospitals in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and the only top ten program in the Southeast, will lend its expertise in helping to find the best cardiovascular surgeons and cardiac anesthesiologists in the nation to work at Lexington Medical Center.

Duke will assist with the recruitment and training of nurses and staff, design of the open heart surgery operating room, implementation of policies and procedures as well as comprehensive oversight of quality and development for all cardiovascular services at Lexington Medical Center.  And, Lexington Medical Center will have access to the latest advances in cardiovascular care.

The ability to provide a full range of cardiovascular services has been a goal of Lexington Medical Center for years. Getting there wasn't easy, a point on display at the announcement. The decade-long battle for Lexington Medical Center included vetoes by the governor and a court ruling that said a Lexington heart program would take away too many patients from competing area hospitals. The timeline ended last summer, when Lexington got the go-ahead.

Now the hospital can add the Duke partnership to its history, a relationship we learned was love at first sight. "From the first day we were here at Lexington Medical Center, we were convinced that Lexington had a priority for patient care that was above all else," said Dr. Harry Phillips of Duke.

Duke will help recruit cardiovascular surgeons, design the operating rooms and train the staff. The new heart center should be up and running later this year.

The hospital operates the second busiest Emergency Department in South Carolina, treating more than 94,000 patients each year.  The hospital also operates two busy catheterization labs.

Statistics from the Office of Research and Statistics show that 337 people from Lexington County required open heart surgery in 2007. Lexington County is one of the fastest growing counties in South Carolina, and the largest without an open heart surgery program.

Procedures included in Lexington Medical Center's new cardiovascular program will be open heart surgery and expansion of therapeutic catheterizations to include elective angioplasty.

Doctors from both Duke and Lexington spent some time talking about the overriding issue -- the fact that Americans are getting larger. They even cited an American Heart Association report that says baby boomers are on a collision course with cardiovascular disease.

On a local level, doctors say the new heart center will help take pressure off Lexington's ER, where they treat almost 95,000 patients last year, many of them having heart attacks.

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