Update on Expansion of Cardiac Care Services at SAH


Every year, approximately 400 Algoma patients are referred to other centres for coronary angioplasty (cardiac stenting), a procedure used to widen blocked or narrowed coronary arteries (the main blood vessels supplying the heart).

In July 2017, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) approved the delivery of coronary angioplasty services locally at Sault Area Hospital (SAH).

Over the last year, SAH has been working collaboratively with St. Michael’s Hospital (SMH) who has been providing cardiac services, educational opportunities and support for SAH’s staff and physicians. As a new site offering coronary angioplasty services, SAH is required to identify an established angioplasty hospital to act as its mentor to ensure established standards are followed. SMH has agreed to partner with SAH and act as a mentor site in delivering enhanced cardiology services locally.

“We are pleased to announce that we have officially finalized our partnership agreement and this is a significant step forward in providing our patients with coronary angioplasty services closer to home,” says Ron Gagnon, SAH President & CEO. “This procedure will greatly benefit patients and their families by bringing care closer to home and minimizing the burden of travel. From a provincial perspective, this will also reduce duplication of expensive diagnostic tests, the cost of Northern Ontario Travel Grants and air ambulance costs (ORNGE) when transporting patients to other centres,” he adds.

SAH is now planning for the expansion of their Cardiology Program and working with HealthForceOntario, while actively recruiting cardiologists. By offering interventional cardiology services like coronary angioplasty, SAH will also be poised to attract additional cardiologists to our community.

“Having local access to high-quality Interventional Cardiology services will save lives,” says Dr. Rishi Ghosh, Medical Director of Critical Care and Cardiology at SAH. “We are aiming to build an exceptional Cardiac program by combining leading-edge technologies, highly efficient access for patients and recruitment of talented Interventional Cardiac physicians. Our Cardiology program will complement the range of outstanding medical services available at SAH and ensure that residents of Algoma and surrounding areas receive the very best medical care.”

For the past year, SMH in partnership with SAH’s local cardiologists, Dr. Gupta and Dr. Mathew, has been providing diagnostic cardiac services at SAH. SMH is a major teaching and research hospital with expertise in diverse areas of health care including cardiology. Dr. Christopher Buller, Director of Cardiac Catheterization and Intervention SMH, will be leading the implementation of coronary angioplasty at SAH. “Adding a program in interventional cardiology to the existing high-quality cardiac services in Sault Ste. Marie accomplishes several important goals.

Most patients needing angioplasty can now have it closer to home, and those suffering large heart attacks who would benefit from an emergency angioplasty will now have it much sooner. At the same time, the strategic alignment with St. Mike’s means Sault patients needing the most specialized care have a fast and efficient pathway to obtaining it,” says Buller.

Providing coronary angioplasty at SAH will include the addition of a second catheterization laboratory. The estimated cost to expand the current laboratory at SAH is $7.5 million. The MOHLTC has confirmed funding up to $2.9 million relating to the construction costs only.

Equipment costs, estimated at $4.5 million, are to be fundraised through the efforts of the Sault Area Hospital Foundation (SAHF). “Our current and future equipment needs are substantial and we look forward to continued community support as we kick off our fundraising efforts for coronary angioplasty,” says Gagnon.

It is expected that the first coronary angioplasty case at SAH will be performed by late summer. “Although we can begin offering this service in the coming months, we will require two catheterization laboratories to meet the gold standard of providing a “door to balloon” time of 90 minutes or less in cases where there is a 100% blockage of a heart artery and the patient has suffered a heart attack,” explains Gagnon. “The Foundation’s fundraising efforts will focus on building a second laboratory so we can provide timely, life-saving treatment to this vulnerable patient population.”

SAH continues to work closely with MOHLTC, CORHealth Ontario and the NELHIN to ensure the expansion plans are in line with established standards. The expanded and fully equipped cardiac laboratories are planned to be complete and operational in 2020.

In the meantime, SMH and SAH will continue to work together to ensure the entire Cardiology team at SAH continue to provide optimal care, including coronary angioplasty, a new and much-needed service in the District of Algoma.