A significant drop in elective procedures at the interventional cardiology program at Greeneville Community Hospital has led Ballad Health System administrators to push forward the timeline of changes to cardiac care there.
“As we were planning for the future growth of our cardiology program, the issues presented by the pandemic have caused us to accelerate certain plans in the interest of good patient care,” said Tammy Albright, chief executive officer of Greeneville Community Hospital. “While we were excited about the investments we were planning to make, after consulting with physician leadership, we share the opinion that we cannot wait in order to take these steps. We made these recommendations to the leadership of Ballad Health, and we are pleased they have approved of them.”
The recommended steps for Greene County include:
• Greeneville Community Hospital will provide immediate transport to a high volume tertiary cardiac center for patients experiencing a heart attack. Ballad says this will reduce the time to treatment and follows the best practices in the nation.
• Ballad Health recruiting additional cardiology specialists to Greeneville and expanding the current cardiology practice.
• Ballad Health investing capital in bringing the most advanced cardiac diagnostic technology to Greeneville – one of the first in the region – to provide advanced, non-interventional identification of risk for heart attacks. This technology, CT Angiography (CTA), is an outpatient service which provides enhanced capability to diagnose risk of coronary disease.
• Ballad Health investing capital to upgrade the C-Arm and Imaging Table at Greeneville Community Hospital, enhancing vascular surgery capabilities at the local hospital.
• Providing privileges to the cardiologists serving Greene County, and their partners, to practice at Johnson City Medical Center – allowing them to follow their patients with the full support of the practitioners they work with and trust.
The volume impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has severely reduced elective procedure volumes at Greeneville Community Hospital for a service which has already previously struggled with low volumes. Performing a low volume of procedures runs contrary to national evidence supporting interventional procedures being done in a higher volume center.
Cardiac catheterization procedures first became available at Greeneville Community Hospital’s East campus (the former Laughlin Memorial Hospital) in 2006. However, its cardiac interventions did not have surgical support available on-site, and some acute cases were transferred to other hospitals in the region. Dr. Mark Chang, president of Ballad Health CVA Cardiology Services explained, ‘”over the past several years, Greene County patients have received their most complex cardiac care in the catheterization laboratories at JCMC and HVMC. Outcomes at those facilities, with our cardiologists and surgeons, have been among the best in the nation. We have been, and will remain, fully committed to continuing timely access and the highest quality of care to all Greene County patients.”
Additionally, while research continues to demonstrate a strong correlation between higher volumes and better outcomes, the catheterization lab at Greeneville Community Hospital only averaged 44 cases a month, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, including all vascular cases, diagnostic catheterization and interventional cardiology. In contrast, more than 590 cardiac catheterization procedures are performed at Johnson City Medical Center every month, and the hospital has earned a Chest Pain certification from The Joint Commission.
“The team members at Greeneville Community Hospital provide excellent care for our patients, and I’m tremendously proud of the service they provide the people of our community,” Albright said. “By accelerating these plans, we are doing the right thing for our patients and for our staff.”