Taking Heart Care Up a Beat

February 20, 2013

Mercy Fort Smith Celebrates Grand Opening of $10 million Heart and Vascular Center

Technologist Dan Smith explains to

visitors how the new nuclear medicine camera in the

stress lab can reduce patient testing times

from 30-to-40 minutes to less than 10 minutes.

“Mercy is living up to its promise to make more services available close to home by building the kind of center that is convenient for patients and enticing to new physicians,” said Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith. “As baby boomers age, the need for outpatient cardiovascular services is expected to grow by more than 25% in the next seven years. This kind of center will allow us to increase access to care for our patients.”

In the works for more than a year, the center boasts  cardiac catheterization labs, a cardiac imaging suite and vascular lab as well as cardiology and cardiovascular surgeon physician offices. It centralizes Mercy’s outpatient heart and vascular offerings to provide the greatest convenience for patients and efficiency for physicians.

“This center is designed around the patient’s needs,” said Jennifer Thomas, vice-president of ancillary services. “Whether patients need to come in for a test, a procedure or a cardiologist appointment, they’ll come to the same space each time. We’ve gathered all our resources in one place to serve people better.”

The new Heart and Vascular Center includes:

  • Four cardiac catheterization labs including three with all new equipment for sophisticated, life-saving interventions
  • A cardiac imaging suite with a nuclear medicine camera dedicated to cardiac care, two stress rooms with treadmills and three echocardiology rooms
  • Vascular lab with two exam rooms for non-invasive outpatient diagnosis
  • Preparation/recovery unit for patients pre- and post-procedure needs
  • Physician offices for Mercy Clinic cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons

The expansion of the Heart and Vascular Center is about more than a new space, it’s about adding new physicians as well. In the last year, Mercy Clinic Cardiology has grown to include five cardiologists, two cardiovascular surgeons and a cardiac electrophysicist. Two additional cardiologists will be joining the group this summer. The increase in the number of physicians has already translated to shorter wait times for appointments and less need to travel outside the area for heart care.

“We simply did not have enough physicians to keep up with the demand for services, “said Matt Keep, chief operating officer of Mercy Clinic. “By continuing to recruit more specialists, we’ve been able to substantially cut down the time it takes to get a cardiology appointment. We are committed to making sure we have the resources to take care of not only people in Fort Smith but within our entire region as well.”

The need for people extends beyond physicians to include nurses, techs and other staff.  Mercy was pleased to donate the equipment replaced in the stress lab to Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus. Next fall, the school will begin offering an Associate of Applied Science in Cardiovascular Technology. Mercy’s donation of two ultrasound machines, a treadmill, three EKG machines and an ultrasound table will help get this program off the ground.

The return on investment will come in the form of qualified graduates to help staff the center in the future.

Patients in need of an appointment with one of our heart or vascular specialists can contact Mercy Clinic Cardiology at 479-314-4650.

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