Pittsburgh-area hospital gets accreditation for acute heart attack care

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Jefferson Hospital has become the first in the state to receive a new American Heart Association accreditation for facilities treating victims of the most deadly heart attacks.

The accreditation as a "heart attack receiving center" runs through July 15, 2016, and, the hospital said, reflects years of efforts to improve care for heart attack victims and patients with other cardiovascular problems.

Speedy treatment is essential for heart attack victims, and the accreditation means "there's a center for excellence immediately available in the community," said Daniel A. Rubin, medical director of Jefferson's cardiac catheterization lab.

Jefferson met association standards and other professional guidelines for treating victims of a kind of heart attack known as a STEMI, in which a clot completely blocks an artery to the heart. Nearly 300,000 people nationwide suffer this type of heart attack each year.

Association spokeswoman Karen Colbert confirmed that Jefferson was the first in the state to receive the accreditation.

Since then, two other hospitals in Eastern Pennsylvania received it, she said, noting that about 40 hospitals nationwide have the designation, which was created only about a year ago.

To receive the accreditation, Jefferson had to work with ambulance services and other hospitals to ensure the rapid transportation of patients to its cardiac catheterization lab. It also had to demonstrate a consistently high level of care -- involving cardiologists, surgeons, emergency-department physicians and others -- once patients arrived.

The hospital had to demonstrate that it could begin angioplasty or another life-saving procedure within 90 minutes of the patient's arrival.

Innovations included a system for summoning cardiologists to the hospital during nights and weekends so that they're ready to act when a patient arrives, Dr. Rubin said. The process also involved training ambulance crews to recognize patients having STEMI attacks, said Richard P. Sullivan, Jefferson's EMS medical director.

"We changed our entire way of operating," Dr. Sullivan said.


Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.

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