Orange's cath lab moves to five days a week

LIFE-SAVING WORK: Western NSW parliamentary secretary Rick Colless, Dr Ruth Arnold, Estelle Ryan and Kath McMaster in the cath lab. Photo: DANIELLE CETINSKI
LIFE-SAVING WORK: Western NSW parliamentary secretary Rick Colless, Dr Ruth Arnold, Estelle Ryan and Kath McMaster in the cath lab. Photo: DANIELLE CETINSKI

ORANGE Health Service’s role as the region’s premier hospital for cardiac care has been extended, with the cardiac catheter laboratory extended to five days a week. 

The extra day of operation, including an extra four full-time beds and 7.2 full time equivalent staff to man the wards and the lab, will cost an extra $1,260,000 a year.

The lab can be used to treat blockages and diagnose conditions, meaning more patients across the Western NSW Local Health District will be treated closer to home after the change and shorter hospital stays are also expected. 

Orange Health Service general manager Catherine Nowlan said it was the state’s first full-time rural and regional cath lab, and the only lab in the district.

“We’ve had increased clinical demand, which has informed the decision-making,” she said. 

“[Previously], officially opened and staffed was four days, but clearly, and you’ve heard today we have a patient coming from Dubbo, we would have to respond to that demand – we are opening the lab today, reactionary.”

The biggest problem for us is, how do we get the one third of patients whose arteries are not going to open, how we get them very quickly to somewhere that can be done for them?

Dr Ruth Arnold

She said opening the lab on a reactionary basis in the past had drawn on on-call staff.

“Cardiac disease is the leading cause of death for women in this district [and] it’s the second-leading cause of death for men in this district so this is about improving the health status of the population we serve,” she said

About seven patients a day are able to access the lab, in addition to a 24/7 callback service to help other hospitals treat their cardiac patients.

The state government has also provided $352,766 for a cardiology research project based in Orange. 

Dr Ruth Arnold will lead the project during the next two years, which will look into how cardiac patients  can be transferred more efficiently for treatment.

Patients with complete blockages have a 14 per cent higher mortality rate compared to urban patients and Dr Arnold said a third of heart attack patients did not respond to medication from paramedics to open their arteries. 

“The biggest problem for us is, how do we get the one third of patients whose arteries are not going to open, how we get them very quickly to somewhere that can be done for them?” she said.

A research nurse will be employed to look into the Western LHD’s records, with results expected by July 2021. 

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