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Summit Health to expand cardiology offerings in county

January 26, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A shortage of cardiologists in Franklin County is being eased now that Chambersburg Hospital is offering interventional cardiology services, according to Norman B. Epstein, president of Summit Health.

"Chambersburg Hospital was considering an open-heart surgery program, but needed to bring cardiologists to the area," Epstein said last week. Instead, the availability of angioplasty and stent insertion procedures beginning today is helping bring heart specialists back to the area and an open heart surgery program is not being considered at this time, he said.

Until recently, Epstein said there were just four cardiologists in the county - one practice with three doctors in Chambersburg and one serving the Waynesboro, Pa., area. Eight to 10 were needed to adequately serve the county's population of 130,000 people, he said.

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There are now six in the county, with three practices now established in Chambersburg, he said. Two of those practices in Chambersburg are expected to expand and another cardiologist may be coming to Waynesboro, according to Epstein.

"The reason for getting involved in interventional cardiology ... was so we could tap into the market for cardiologists and bring them to Franklin County," he said. Summit Health owns the hospitals in Chambersburg and Waynesboro.

Last year, Chambersburg Hospital received approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health for a demonstration project that includes the availability of stents and angioplasty. The program is in affiliation with PinnacleHealth Heart and Vascular Institute at Harrisburg (Pa.) Hospital.

Stents are metal mesh tubes inserted into clogged arteries to keep them open. Epstein said a stent coated with medication that prevents restenosis, or reclogging of the artery, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Angioplasty is a procedure that inserts a small balloon into an artery. When it reaches a clogged area, the balloon is inflated to open the blockage and restore blood flow.

"Bypass surgery is dramatically decreasing because of the use of stents and angioplasty," Epstein said.

Open-heart surgery programs can be established in Pennsylvania hospitals without a certificate of need from the Department of Health, but Epstein said stents without an on-site open heart surgery program required department approval.

"They recognized the shortage of cardiologists" in the county, Epstein said of the department.

He credited state Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Franklin/Cumberland, for working with the department to expedite the approval process.

Chambersburg Hospital is one of just four hospitals in Pennsylvania approved for stenting procedures without an on-site, open-heart surgery program.

The partnership with Harrisburg Hospital also allows patients to be treated there if they require heart surgery, Epstein said.

"We can move the people that need bypass surgery to Harrisburg ... by helicopter, if necessary," he said.

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