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Open heart surgery for Southern Regional?

Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale has announced plans to begin providing open heart surgery as early as Jan. 1, 2012. If the application is approved, SRMC would be the first hospital on the Southside to offer the specialized care.

The proposal must first be approved by the Georgia Department of Community Health before the hospital can proceed.

Hospital representatives are seeking the community’s support for the expansion, which would cost less than $3 million.

According to the hospital, nearly 600 residents in the Southern Crescent area had to undergo open heart surgery, and each one had to leave the area to do so.

“The region is home to 850,000 people but not one open heart program,” said Ron Dodson, chairman of the Southern Regional Board of Directors and also a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. “That’s a big problem, and it’s one Southern Regional is determined to correct.”

Dodson said the Department of Community Health needs to hear from residents of the Southern Crescent that the service is needed and wanted, and also that they are willing to support it.

Information on supporting the effort is available at openheart.southernregional.org.
Southern Regional offers angioplasty procedures for low-risk patients, but those in the high-risk category must be transferred to another hospital with open heart capabilities, hospital officials said. If the hospital is allowed to proceed with an open heart surgery program, there would be no need for a patient transfer, officials said.

Southern Regional operates a fully-accredited chest pain center and its emergency department sees approximately 7,000 cardiac patients each year. Last year the hospital was accredited to provide echocardiographic services, which provide a non-invasive approach to detecting and managing cardiac disease.

Also last year Southern Regional was the first facility in Atlanta to implant a pacemaker equipped with wireless technology that can notify physicians of changes in the condition of the patient or the device itself, said hospital CEO Clint Matthews.

Although Southern Regional estimates the state’s review and decision process will take about 120 days, that timeframe could possibly be extended should any other hospital choose to challenge Southern Regional’s application to perform open heart surgery.

The project will not require any new construction but will involve “modest facility renovations” but most of the cost will go towards equipment acquisition, hospital officials said. The hospital already has “state of the art” operating rooms and support space necessary for an open heart surgery program, officials said.

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