Temecula Valley Hospital’s STEMI certification will save lives

The staff at Temecula Valley Hospital is in the business to save lives and when saving the life of a stroke or heart attack patient, time is critical. The time it takes for a patient to be treated can be the difference between life and death which is why the hospital’s latest certification is a considered a big win for residents in the valley.

The medical team at the hospital learned this month they were designated a STEMI receiving center, becoming the sixth facility in Riverside County to earn this title. STEMI, which stands for ST Elevated Myocardial Infractions, is the deadliest form of heart attack. To be opened only a year and receive the designated title is a win for the residents in the community and the medical team, according to officials. Loma Linda hospital, which opened in 2011, took two years to receive their certification.

“Patients who are considered STEMI are the sickest of sickest having a heart attack,” said Andrew Ho, the Riverside Cardiology Associates Chief of Medicine at Temecula Valley Hospital. “Time if of the essence and it is important to be at the right hospital at the right time to save a patient’s life.”

Medical Director of Emergency Services at Temecula Valley Hospital, Pranav Kachhi, said it’s important for emergency room doctors to provide a full level of care.

“It is a nightmare to have to request a second transfer for the patient,” Kachhi said.

The certification means if an ambulance is called and person is having a heart attack, the emergency medical team is trained to determine the type of heart attack a patient is having. If it is STEMI the ambulance will be routed directly to a STEMI designated hospital.

Now that the hospital has been certified by the county, the EMS agency allows a facility to receive ambulances. This means patients in Temecula and the north San Diego County will no longer be forced to undergo long rides to surrounding hospitals, which could lead to the death of a patient.

“When we have a patient coming in coded STEMI that now activates a system of professionals who work in an organized approach to manage the patient with various specialty teams kicking their training into gear working with strict timelines,” said Katie DiDonato, MSN, RN, CNOR Director of Clinical Programs, Education and Training at Temecula Valley Hospital.

“When I receive a patient who a STEMI and they come to me too late it is regrettable knowing I could possibly save them if I saw them earlier,” said Ho.

Kachhi said the hospital’s staff is trained to try to get the patient’s heart attack under control in as little as a half hour but no longer than 90 minutes.

“There is nothing else out there that exists that our hospital doesn’t have. We have everything we need to take care of our patients having a heart attack,” said Ho who was instrumental in developing the program that lead to certification.

On the morning that Ho spoke with Temecula Valley News he and his team saved the life of a 60-year-old woman who initially was diagnosed as having a heart too weak to survive surgery. When Ho reviewed her case he thought she would be a great candidate for a special device the hospital has called the Impella. The Impella allows the doctor to keep the heart pumping long enough for the clogged arteries to be repaired. The procedure is also non-invasive meaning the patient can have their heart repaired without open-heart surgery.

“Not every patient is a candidate for this device but she was our first and we expect a full recovery,” Ho said.

In April, Temecula Valley Hospital was certified as a stroke ready facility. Since the certification doctors have treated close to 60 patients and plan to receive certification in 2015 as a Joint Commission Primary Stroke Center.

In the spring of 2015 the hospital will also seek chest pain accreditation, which is given to facilities that get a balloon into a patient in less than 90 minutes.

“We are developing processes and streamlining it to show the county we can get to these patients and as a result save their life,” Ho said.

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