January 12, 2014

Editorial: Heartfelt loss to community

In 2006, CVPH Medical Center opened — to great fanfare and after considerable expense — its open-heart surgery program.

The achievement, which included a new surgical department and two new operating rooms, was a source of great pride for the North Country.

Some excerpts from the hospital’s own “History of Cardiac Care”: “A tremendous investment in cardiac care has paid dividends for the community and Medical Center from the onset.

“Better, more complete facilities for heart care would be hard to find anywhere.

“These facilities, coupled with a talented, dedicated group of physicians, nurses and support staff, have quickly turned heart care at CVPH into the envy of programs across the nation.”

Now, plans are being made to discontinue the CVPH program and consolidate that service at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, which has been CVPH’s heart-surgery mentor since 2011.

It is likely a necessary change, in light of the national trends in health care, but there is no ignoring the loss in prestige from closure of the local program.

It doesn’t mean CVPH won’t do any heart procedures. It will now focus on intervention procedures, such as angioplasties, stents and electrophysiology — services that have been performed here for many years.

CVPH officials say the number of open-heart surgeries here has decreased. The Department of Health wants a hospital offering that surgery to perform at least 100 per year, because the more you do, the better you are at it. Over the last four years, CVPH has performed an average of 125 cardiac surgeries per year, once even hitting 138. But 2013 was going to barely make the required number.

Fletcher Allen and CVPH used to compete for patients on a number of levels. But, in 2012, CVPH became part of Fletcher Allen Partners, which also includes Fletcher Allen, Elizabethtown Community Hospital and Central Vermont Medical Center, with the aim to work as an integrated system.

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