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Cardiac-care unit campaign beats on in Kamloops

Al Patel is a man on a mission, but he has many hurdles to conquer. The Kamloops businessman and philanthropist wants to see an acute cardiac-care unit (CCU) and, later, catheter lab created at Royal Inland Hospital
ICCHA Wish Fund Al Patel
During a 2014 visit to the Royal Inland Hospital oncology department, ICCHA Wish Fund board of directors Krishna Lakkineni (left), Dr. G.B. Gowd, founder Al Patel, Bob Purhit and Anil Parekh chat with RIH Foundation CEO Heidi Coleman. The ICCHA/Wish Fund is raising $500,000 in its bid to have a cardiac-care unit added to Royal Inland Hospital. The fund has donated more than $600,000 to the hospital, with the money used each year to buy much-needed medical equipment.

Al Patel is a man on a mission, but he has many hurdles to conquer.

The Kamloops businessman and philanthropist wants to see an acute cardiac-care unit (CCU) and, later, catheter lab created at Royal Inland Hospital.

A year ago, Patel committed to raising $500,000 for a CCU. As April begins, he has raised almost $200,000.

However, in a recent teleconference with the Ministry of Health, Interior Health and Cardiac Services BC (CCSBC), Patel heard his goal isn’t likely to happen in the near future.

Jaymi Chernoff of IH told Patel that it’s a reasonable goal to have, but other steps must first be taken by the health authority. For example, she said, there is a business case that needs to be developed for creating dedicated coronary-care beds at the hospital.

Chernoff told Patel there are many other changes that need to happen at the hospital before it can be considered a “full-fledged tertiary cardiac-care facility.”

Carol Laberge of CCSBC said her agency expects to release a position statement on all of the elements required to create a catheter lab in a smaller city, noting other communities also have expressed interest in having one.

She said quality and safety must be “first and foremost” when planning sub-speciality procedures and expressed interest in continuing to work together on the issue.

Patel pointed to his friend as one of the reasons why he wants to see the CCU created.

Dr. Bas Gowd spent four days in a bed at RIH waiting to be sent to Kelowna General Hospital’s CCU when he was suspected of having heart issues.

He went to Kelowna and back by ambulance and estimates the cost to the health-care system would have been about $10,000.

The death of Dr. Rajinder Joneja, who had a fatal heart attack while waiting in the RIH emergency department early last year, fuelled Patel’s determination.

He and Gowd talked with others who have been placed on wards to await their trip to Kelowna, some in beds in hallways while they waited.

They all want that travelling and its inherent costs replaced by a CCU at Royal Inland.

With six full-time cardiac doctors now in Kamloops, plus a locum who puts in half-time in the city, Patel wants that group to be given “the equipment and space to do what they know best. If we don’t, they will leave.”

He said he’s not looking for a “full-blast” clinic, but one where at least angiograms can be done and stents inserted when needed.

In most cases, Patel said, people would be back in their homes within a day.

“How much is a life worth?” Patel asked. “The ECG [electrocardiogram] is not as accurate. It’s sound and not pictures.”

John O’ Fee, former chair of the board for Interior Health, said he and then-health minister Terry Lake met with Patel to talk about his goal. O’Fee said they agreed it was something to work toward, creating a rapid-access clinic and then a catheter lab, but noted no timelines or promises were included.

“It just seemed logical for the city,” O’Fee said.

Gowd, who is now retired, said there has been talk about the need for a CCU for at least a quarter-century. He and Patel are hoping others in the community will work with them to meet the $500,000 fund-raising goal and pressure the health authority to approve a CCU soon.

Requests from KTW to speak with Health Minister Adrian Dix were unsuccessful, but his ministry sent an emailed statement that praised Patel for his “commitment to improving health services in Kamloops.

“Service delivery for cardiac care is delivered in a regional model to make best use of the specialized resources required and to match the needs of the local population,” the email stated.

“At this time, work is underway to build upon core foundational cardiac services in Kamloops and improve access to the existing regional cardiac catheterization lab in Kelowna.

“Interior Health continues to build a cardiology program at Royal Inland Hospital that will expand services to meet patient’s needs in Kamloops and Thompson Cariboo Shuswap.”

The statement pointed to creation at RIH of a rapid-access clinic that provides enhanced patient access to cardiac doctors, recruitment of more cardiologists to the city and the exploration of options to enhance coronary care and improved accessibility to enhanced heart-failure, cardiac-diagnostic and pacemaker services in the Thompson-Cariboo health-service delivery area.

Cardiac-care unit campaign beats on