Dr. Beth Piccione calls the level of care available at UPMC Jameson's new cardiac cathereterization lab heartwarming.
As a cardiologist, it's not a term she uses lightly.
Expected to be utilized yesterday by its first patients, the new lab offers an expanded level of cardiac care.
As a nurse, Amy Hilton knew what her symptoms meant.
Donna Cochran, director of nursing at Jameson, explained that while the hospital previously had a smaller cath lab, which remains in use, the expanded facility features the latest medical technology.
"Our volume has grown over the years, this allows us to accommodate that growth and provide state-of-the-art equipment for seeing the heart," she said.
Gary Strobel, a professional staff nurse in the lab, noted that a large screen allows cardiologists to see multiple views of a patient's heart while at the same time compare any past images to the one being taken.
He further explained that patients seen in the lab range from those needing clearance for other surgeries to those referred for elective catheterizations who have had some cardiac symptoms to those arriving via the emergency room having major heart issues and needing balloons or stents inserted.
"For those patients, the goal is to have the artery open, or least the balloon inserted, within 90 minutes," Cochran said.
"Time is of the utmost importance," said Piccione, Jameson's vice president of medical affairs. "Every single second, every minute counts. Not having to transfer patients because we have the cath lab here is a huge benefit to the community."
On average, more than 400 diagnostic cardiac catheterizations are done annually at Jameson with about a third of those patients needing interventions.
Many of those patients come from Mercer County's UPMC Horizon hospitals in Farrell and Greenville, explained Marianna Stoneburner, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services.
With the regionalization of care between Jameson and Horizon, cardiac care for Lawrence and Mercer counties has been headquartered at the New Castle hospital's Heart and Vascular Institute, which opened last summer.
"They can be seen by their cardiologist in Mercer County, but come here for their elective procedures," Stoneburner said, noting that the new lab, which allowed for the creation of seven new jobs, is part of UPMC's $30 million investment in the local hospital.
Piccione said patients feel more comfortable in the new setting where doctors' offices, labs, surgical intervention and patient rooms are all housed in the same area.
"We try to provide as much as we can in one space," Piccione said, noting that sometimes, patients with complicated conditions don't have to leave New Castle for further treatment.
Use of telemedicine allows local physicians to consult with "colleagues on the highest level" on more those cases. And, if necessary, already being part of the UPMC system makes for an easier transition should a patient need to be transferred to a larger facility.
"They can log on in real time in Pittsburgh, look at the films and make a plan while we help the patient here with access and appointments," Piccione said. "It lets them focus on being healthy and getting the care they need without worrying about logistics."
"The goal is to be the regional center of excellence and provide the level of care people expect from UPMC," Piccione said. "It's care the way it's supposed to work, and it's heartwarming."