Thirty years ago, Professor Paul Bannon was a young research student sleeping overnight at Strathfield Private Hospital, looking after patients as part of a new project.
Three decades after assisting on its very first case, he is one of the cardiothoracic surgeons leading the Sydney facility's thriving cardiac program.
“Reaching this 30-year milestone, I don’t think it’s the time that’s so important, but rather the evolution of care at Strathfield that really should be emulated everywhere,” he said.
“It’s such a small place by hospital standards but it punches way above its weight, not only in the case numbers but also in the breadth of conditions we treat.”
Back in 1991, Prof Bannon was a PhD student helping Professors Duncan Thompson and Douglas Baird, who led the nascent cardiac program.
“I remember bunking down and sleeping there to look after the patients overnight,” he said.
“It was all for free of course – Professor Baird told me the experience was payment enough – but it really was a lot of fun.”
The hospital, which serves Sydney's Inner West and also rural areas thanks to its major rail hub, has come a long way in those three decades.
Its cardiac facilities feature a dedicated 25-bed cardiovascular ward, cardiac catheter laboratory, hybrid theatre and Intensive Care Unit.
“Another key point is Strathfield’s commitment from the outset to measuring and reporting patient outcomes,” Prof Bannon said.
“It was the first private cardiac surgical unit in New South Wales to contribute to the National Database and Governance unit and has not missed a beat since the database’s inception. The outcomes have always been of the highest standard.”
Professor Ian Wilcox, a cardiologist who was also instrumental in establishing the program, said the anniversary was an important milestone to recognise and celebrate.
“We had unimaginable waiting lists in the public sector back then so we needed to find a facility to operate on private patients,” he said.
“At Strathfield Private Hospital, we developed a unique model where it’s consultant-led; patients get the benefits of all of our skills and, because we’re all academically trained, the patients are getting the best of modern science directly at the bedside.”
Both Prof Wilcox and hospital CEO Rowann O’Mullane both paid tribute to the role the nursing team had played in delivering excellence of care to patients at Strathfield Private, which is part of the Ramsay Health Care group.
“For 30 years we have been leading the way in private cardiac care, and we now have the full range of cardiothoracic surgeons as well as cardiologists,” Ms O’Mullane said.
“The fact that we still have nursing staff working here who were present for the first cardiac surgery 30 years ago, and many nurses who have been working in the cardiac unit for over 20 years, is remarkable.
“Our nursing team forms the foundation for our success in cardiac care and our patients should feel at ease knowing they are in good hands.”
Looking to the future, the hospital will aim to build on its expertise in complex cardiac care, said Associate Professor Michele McGrady, Head of the Department of Medicine.
“As we move forward we’ll include more community care. We’re looking to integrate more research into our service and perhaps develop options such as nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices from pre-op right through to discharge,” she said.