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AHA tabs Jefferson Hospital tops in state for critical cardiac care

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 11:27 a.m.
Dr. Daniel Rubin
Jefferson Hospital
Dr. Daniel Rubin
Jefferson Hospital STEMI team members perform a procedure in one of four state-of-the-art catheterization labs at the site.
Jefferson Hospital
Jefferson Hospital STEMI team members perform a procedure in one of four state-of-the-art catheterization labs at the site.
Dr. Richard Sullivan
Jefferson Hospital
Dr. Richard Sullivan

Jefferson Hospital is the first health care facility in the state to earn recognition from the American Heart Association as a Mission: Lifeline Heart Attack Receiving Center.

“This is another reminder that Jefferson Hospital sets its standards very high and that we provide excellent care,” cardiac catheterization laboratory medical director Dr. Daniel Rubin said of the accreditation through July 15, 2016.

A dinner Wednesday night at South Hills Country Club honored the EMS and hospital teams that worked together to make the accreditation possible. That includes cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, emergency department physicians and other medical staff members, and EMS personnel and support staff.

To earn receiving status, the team had to demonstrate expertise in meeting and exceeding established standards of 90 minutes from the time heart attack patients arrive at the hospital until they receive angioplasty, thombectomy or stenting — lifesaving procedures for reopening blocked arteries.

Other requirements are providing continuing education that includes training for hospital staff and local EMS, and raising community awareness through education and resources.

“We are certainly proud that Jefferson's Heart Institute is among a select few hospitals nationwide — and the only hospital in Pennsylvania — to achieve this recognition for our commitment and success in implementing a high standard of care for heart attack patients,” Rubin said,

The dedicated cardiac team deserves credit, Rubin said.

“They wake up in the middle of the night or sleep in the hospital if they can't make it home or think they might not be able to get back to the hospital in the morning because of the weather,” he said. “It's part of our job and we do it, but it's worth recognizing those who do just that.

Hospital president and CEO John Dempster said the status shows the high level of patient care provided at the facility.

“Since the Heart Institute opened in 2002, our cardiac team has won numerous honors for its outstanding patient outcomes and complex cases,” Dempster said. “We are pleased to add to those awards by becoming the first Mission: Lifeline Heart Attack Receiving Center in Pennsylvania. As part of the Allegheny Health Network, Jefferson looks forward to providing expanded services and an even greater focus on quality of care.”

Developed by the American Heart Association and the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care, the accreditation recognizes hospitals qualified to treat a serious form of heart attack known as STEMI — ST-elevation myocardial infarction. That occurs when an artery completely closes and a large amount of the heart tissue starts to die and does not conduct electricity.

When that happens, the patient could die suddenly or be in jeopardy of sudden failure the rest of his or her life. So the artery must be opened as quickly as possible.

Hospital EMS medical director Dr. Richard Sullivan was not surprised by the receiving-center status.

“We've tracked this closely for five years,” he said. “We knew we had the numbers and results to back things up. It doesn't surprise me that we got the accreditation, but it came quicker than we expected.”

Sullivan said it is special to be the first hospital in the state to receive the honor, and that he wants all patients to receive the best treatment.

“We want the greatest outcome for all of our critically ill patients who come to us,” he said. “We want them all to have a better-than-average outcome.”

Sullivan said 25 to 30 EMS partners use Jefferson Hospital. He said he wants them to know “they can count on us to be there for the best cardiac care in the region. You can come here 24 hours a day and know you will get quality care. This accreditation shows the American Heart Association believes it, too.”

Cardiac survival rate has increased in recent years, Rubin said. He credited that to patient awareness, statins used to lower blood cholesterol, and better balloon testing and stents.

Among the common heart attack symptoms are chest pressure or heaviness, back pain, pain radiating to the jaw or arm, sweating, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath.

“All those can occur or they can be independent and not occur together,” Rubin said.

Symptoms in women can be the same as in men, but there can be different indications such as fatigue, abdominal pain, or passing out for no apparent reason.

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1916, or

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