The phone call that can save lives

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A direct phone line is giving heart-attack victims arriving at Gold Coast Private Hospital a better chance of full recovery.

Paramedics can now call interventional cardiologists for expert guidance on the way to the Emergency Care Centre (ECC), allowing early treatment of patients’ symptoms. 

The phone line connects Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) workers to the hospital’s cardiac catheterisation laboratory during opening hours, or to one of eight specialists after hours. 

“Early intervention is critical when dealing with heart attacks and the ability for paramedics to remotely liaise with the cath lab team is making a huge difference to patient outcomes,” Gold Coast Private’s ECC director and emergency medicine specialist Dr Anthony Padowitz said. 

He said it was particularly beneficial for patients suffering ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) – one of the most serious heart conditions, where a major artery is blocked.

“I’ve seen a significant improvement in the condition of STEMI patients arriving at the ECC in the past decade and there is no doubt the direct link between paramedics and the cath lab is playing a significant role,” Dr Padowitz added. 

Cath lab manager David Millen said “time is everything” when dealing with heart attacks.

“The longer an artery is blocked, the more damage is done to the muscle, so if the QAS can communicate directly with the cardiologist, it speeds up the whole process,” he said.

Gold Coast Private has two cath labs, and staff on duty for arrivals at any time day or night, meaning patients can be treated as soon as they have been examined and escorted through the ECC. 

“The gold standard is to have the patient’s artery unblocked 90 minutes from the onset of chest pain,” added Mr Millen, who said people experiencing heart symptoms should call an ambulance immediately. 

“We have strict protocols in place to ensure patients are admitted and treated as efficiently as possible, starting from the moment the QAS arrive on scene, but to have the best chance of survival you need to make that first call.” 

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