Copley Hospital and Fletcher Allen to Develop New Heart Attack Protocol

(Immediate) Monday, July 7, 2008
Leah Hollenberger
Development & Public Relations
Copley Health System
Mike Noble
Marketing & Communications
Fletcher Allen
Robert Stirewalt
Communications Office
VT Department of Health

BURLINGTON VT - When a heart attack happens, every minute counts.  A new protocol, approved by the Vermont Office of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), shortens the length of time it takes for individuals to receive advanced heart attack care by transporting them directly to a hospital that performs an artery-opening procedure called angioplasty.

Developed by Copley Hospital in Morrisville, and Fletcher Allen Health Care, located in Burlington, the new protocol improves access to specialized care for people who experience a particular type of heart attack referred to as STEMI (ST-wave elevated myocardial infarction).

People experiencing this type of heart attack have complete blockage of a vessel that supplies blood to the heart.  Because the heart needs to beat continuously, quick and effective restoration of blood flow is the best method to save lives. Opening blocked vessels with a balloon, referred to as angioplasty, or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is the most effective treatment for STEMI.  Fletcher Allen is the only hospital that performs angioplasties in Vermont.

Prior to the revised protocol, EMS crews were directed to take a heart attack patient to the nearest hospital for evaluation.  The patient could be treated with clot busters (medications designed to open the blocked vessel) at that hospital, or, after determining the need, transferred to a hospital that performs angioplasties.

Under the new protocol, Copley Hospital medical staff will provide medical direction to EMS providers on the scene to decide if a heart attack patient needs to be transferred directly to Fletcher Allen for an angioplasty.

This new protocol reflects what is happening nationally in the field with EMS providers.The collaboration between Copley Hospital and Fletcher Allen sets a new standard for specialized emergency care in Vermont.

"Copley has a long history of cooperating with EMS to advance emergency care for our community," said Dr. John Kaeding, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Copley Hospital. "This new protocol will improve heart attack care for residents and visitors in the Lamoille County area."

Dan Manz, EMS chief at the Vermont Department of Health observed that the new STEMI protocol is an excellent example of how the professionals at a community hospital, a referral center, and the local EMS agencies can integrate their services to improve the system of care for patients with a very time-sensitive emergency.

"Our cardiology specialists in PCI under the direction of Dr. Harold Dauerman have worked hard to improve our systems and practices to be able to accept these patients on a 24/7 basis," said David Schneider, M.D., director of Cardiology Services at Fletcher Allen and professor of Medicine at the UVM College of Medicine.  "We continue to work with area hospitals to improve cardiac care for heart attack victims.  The work is paying off with times to open artery that are among the best in the nation, while at the same time, we are seeing significant improvements in the survival of patients.  Equally important, early treatment preserves heart function and allows people to return to normal activities after a heart attack."

Approximately one heart attack patient per month is transferred to Fletcher Allen from the Copley service area annually. "While we don't want any one to have a heart attack," said Dr. Kaeding, "I feel confident that the teamwork developed by the EMS system, Fletcher Allen and Copley gives these patients an excellent chance to survive and return to normal activities."

About Copley Hospital
Copley Hospital is the essential health care resource in the Lamoille County area, governed by patient-centered values and supported by the community. Over the years Copley has developed a standard of clinical excellence and an array of services rare for a small, rural community hospital. Copley also actively promotes wellness, providing an extensive calendar of community education opportunities.  In 2007, Copley was named EMS Hospital of the Year. The hospital provides more than one million dollars in charity care annually.

About Fletcher Allen
Fletcher Allen, together with our partners at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, is Vermont's academic medical center.  Our mission is to improve the health of the people in the communities we serve by integrating patient care, education and research in a caring environment.  Fletcher Allen serves as a regional referral center -- providing advanced care to approximately one million people in Vermont and northern New York -- and as a community hospital for approximately 150,000 residents in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties.  With more than 30 patient care sites and 100 outreach clinics, programs and services throughout the region, Fletcher Allen is committed to being a national model for the delivery of high-quality academic health care for a rural region.

About Vermont's EMS
Vermont's Emergency Medical Services System (EMS) is composed of approximately 180 licensed First Response and Ambulance services staffed by 3,000 certified EMS providers. These pre-hospital emergency care providers include First Responders/Emergency Care Attendants, EMT Basics, EMT Intermediates and Paramedics. The Vermont Office of EMS and Injury Prevention is the state office responsible for EMS regulation and system development. The EMS Office licenses EMS organizations, provides ambulance inspections, administers certification exams for EMS providers and is active in system development and injury prevention programs. The majority of the EMS providers are volunteers.