by Susan Mikula Campbell
According to the State Department of Health, in 2007, Niagara County residents experienced death rates 39 percent above the state average for heart disease. In 2003, the rate was 28 percent higher than the state average.
Mount St. Mary's Hospital and Health Center in Lewiston announced last week that it will collaborate with Catholic Health's Heart Center at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo to build a $7.9 million cardiac catheterization laboratory to help bring that percentage down.
The facility, to be built as a 9,000-square-foot addition to the north side of the hospital, will be the only one of its type in Niagara County, providing cardiac catheterization and coronary angioplasty procedures.
Certificate of need applications have been filed with the state, and construction is to begin once they are approved. The approval process usually takes about six to nine months, according to hospital officials.
Niagara County residents who need procedures such as angioplasties and cardiac stents now have to "travel across two bridges, 25 to 30 miles, to get care," said Judith A. Maness, president and CEO of Mount St. Mary's.
"That half hour, 45 minutes can make a difference," said Dr. Brian D'Arcy, senior vice president for Catholic Health medical affairs.
Mount St. Mary's does have five cardiologists on staff, but does not have the facilities to do these more advanced procedures.
"If someone is having a heart attack, it's a scary thing to know you could be dead in five minutes" and be so far away from needed procedures, said Mount St. Mary's cardiologist Dr. James Conley. He will be medical director of the new lab.
Mercy was selected as a partner in the venture because it has the best cardiac catheterization results in the region and one of the best in the nation, said C.J. Urlaub, Mercy's president and CEO. It also is the only place in the region that uses advanced robotics to assist in cardiac surgery.
He noted that the latest advances in cardiac care have resulted in fewer numbers of open-heart surgeries. However, for those who do need the operation, Mercy's new emergency room and helicopter-landing pad will be available for Mount St. Mary's patients.
The new lab will mean Niagara County residents will be able to receive the "best cardiac care right here at Mount St. Mary's," he said.