Harrison hopes to add open heart surgery

"Harrison Hospital soon might be able to provide facilities for open-heart surgery at its Bremerton facility.The hospital has applied to the state Department of Health to develop a cardiac surgery program in conjunction with the University of Washington Medical Center. Hospital officials anticipate approval this summer.A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 13, at the central branch of the Kitsap Regional Library, on Sylvan Way, so the community and members of the hospital staff can come and ask questions and raise concerns, said Mel Belding, vice president of medical affairs for the hospital.Belding added that a major criteria for approval of a cardiac surgery facility is patient base, and enough referrals going from the area to support a cardiac unit enough to keep their skills up.Harrison has been considering such a facility for some time, but 1999 provided the numbers it needed to seek certification.Belding said the magic number is 275 patients a year, and we exceeded that in 1999. We had close to 300.We've been looking at it for 10 years, and each time we said, 'It's not time yet', he said.But that changed due to a combination of factors, increasing population, the increasing age of the population, and more people coming (here) that used to go to Seattle for treatment, Belding said.While Harrison cardiologists have the capacity to do emergency angioplasties, they are not permitted to do the procedure on an elective basis. That would necessitate having backup cardiac surgeons available if complications arose.Cardiologists are internists with a cardiac specialty who diagnose and treat heart problems. They can perform angioplasties, but only cardiac surgeons are qualified to open the chest to work on the heart, Belding said.We will not be doing transplants, he said. That's a whole different level of expertise. You want a big volume, lots of patients, to do that.Two cardiac surgeons from the University of Washington's cardiac surgery team likely will work at Harrison's main campus in East Bremerton. They could begin as early as summer 2002, said hospital spokeswoman Patti Hart.The hospital has to recruit cardiologists, as well as put together experts for the cardiac surgery teams - anesthesiologists and nurses as well as surgeons.We've reached a point in our planning that this makes good sense for the community and for us, said David Gitch, Harrison's president and chief executive officer.The open heart surgery program also would enhance Harrison's current cardiovascular services of cardiologists, a chest pain clinic, catheterization lab and diagnostic and treatment tools like echocardiography and angiography. "

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