High-Quality Cardiac Care Close to Home
February is Heart Month, a time to bring attention to the importance of cardiovascular health. This month, I would like to shine a spotlight on the important cardiac care offered through Cornwall Community Hospital’s (CCH) Heart Function Clinic and Pulmonary and Heart Function Rehabilitation Program.
The Heart Function Clinic at CCH is a specialized outpatient cardiac clinic for patients with heart failure, a condition that develops when your heart doesn't pump enough blood for your body's needs. This can happen if your heart can't fill up with enough blood or when your heart is too weak to pump properly. According to the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, more than 100,000 Canadians are diagnosed with heart failure annually and it is one of the top reasons for hospital admissions in Canada.
Heart failure patients referred to the Heart Function Clinic benefit from appointments with a multi-disciplinary team, which includes a cardiologist (heart doctor) and nurse practitioner, who help monitor and manage symptoms, provide assessments and follow-up, educate patients and families, and develop individualized treatment plans to promote better heart health, quality of life, and reduce chances of hospitalization.
Echocardiography plays an important role in the diagnosis and management of patients with heart failure. An echocardiogram is a specialized ultrasound that allows the cardiologist to see how blood flows through the heart and heart valves. Because CCH is an Accredited Echocardiography Facility, patients can receive an echocardiogram at the hospital instead of having to travel for their exam.
Often, heart failure patients feel fatigued as the heart is no longer strong enough to provide the body with all the blood and oxygen it needs. In these instances, they may be referred to the Pulmonary and Heart Function Rehabilitation Program at CCH. This rehab program offers a series of one-hour exercise sessions involving light weights, stretching, a walk on the treadmill and cycling, coordinated by a registered respiratory therapist, to help patients get back to their health.
According to Dr. Kamal Sharma, Heart Function Clinic cardiologist and Medical Director of Echocardiography Services at CCH, the impact that this high level of specialized care and expertise is bringing to our community can’t be overstated. For instance, last year alone, 550 individuals received continuous care through the Heart Function Clinic, helping them live a more normal life and alleviating potential emergency visits to the hospital.
“This multidisciplinary team has given the local population access to tertiary care expertise in a community setting. As the population is aging and availability of transportation is limited, having access to such cardiac care close to home takes away the worry and burden on these already frail patients and helps preserve our hospital’s emergency resources,” explains Dr. Sharma.
Pamela Taylor received a triple bypass surgery in 2000 and was undergoing heart function treatment while she was living Kitchener, Ontario. When she moved to Cornwall several years later, she was referred to the Heart Function Clinic at CCH and was thankful that she could continue receiving these services close to home. Today she is also enrolled in the Pulmonary and Heart Function Rehabilitation Program.
“Having it [the Heart Function Clinic] here is great; it’s just like it was when I was in Kitchener. The staff here are just amazing, and I have complete confidence in them,” explains Pamela, who also adds that the rehab sessions have been beneficial to her quality of life. “I had problems with walking, but I find now I’m getting better. I’m feeling a little bit stronger and can go a little bit further.”
This Heart Month, I’m proud of the work our hospital has accomplished in enhancing access to care and bringing these important cardiac services to our community. Cardiac care is an important part of our service to our community and a vital element which supports many patients across our hospital and throughout the region.
For more information on heart disease and risks and prevention, you can visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada website at www.heartandstroke.ca.