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June 13, 2013

Bassett Heart Care Institute marks 10th anniversary

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The Bassett Heart Care Institute marked its 10th birthday Wednesday, with wishes to continue helping patients live healthier, longer lives that include celebrating the birthdays of grandchildren.

The institute, which opened in 2003 as a rural demonstration project, has matured to provide patients in the region with state-of-the-art care in emergency and treatment situations, physicians said Wednesday at a celebratory event.

“We have a sustainable model,” Dr. Patrick McNulty, chief of the BCHI cardiology division, said.

On Wednesday, about 75 employees and guests were invited to celebrate reaching the 10th year with a breakfast at the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center in Oneonta.

Dr. William Streck, president and chief executive officer of Bassett Healthcare, and Dr. Robert Lancey and McNulty, co-directors of BHCI, spoke about the institute’s past, present and future, and Tom Morgan of Franklin shared his experiences as a patient.

Since opening BHCI staff have performed about 1,000 open-heart surgeries, 4,000 angioplasties, 10,000 catheterizations and 50,000 echocardiograms, McNulty said.

Besides lives saved, treatments and care have resulted in patients resuming day-to-day work and other lifestyle activities, experiencing improved quality of life and living longer to celebrate grandchildren’s birthdays, McNulty said.

The BHCI started with five cardiologists when it opened in 2003, Lancey said, and now it has 17 medical professionals, including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Angioplasties, stents and other advanced treatments weren’t available in the area before the BHCI opened, he said.

McNulty said the BHCI started with Streck’s vision and and has developed its award-winning level of care as a result of teamwork. As an example, he said, one patient who had a heart attack received treatment that was the result of 100 Bassett staffers involved in his care.

McNulty said three cardiologists have been hired this year with the best credentials the BHCI has had. The BHCI aims to serve the region and be a medical resource and drawing card not unlike the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., attracts patients from far beyond its geographical setting, he said.

“Why not have the best?” he said. “ We have cutting-edge care.”

The BHCI has a staff of about 100 people and budget of $25 million to $35 million, McNulty said, but as part of the larger Bassett Healthcare Network, some services and expenses are shared.

Before the BHCI opened, patients didn’t have access to heart care or had to travel to a facility more than an hour outside the area, the physicians said, but now emergency crews may take patients to Bassett. 

The Heart Alert program was created when Bassett provided area emergency squads with EKG machines and training to enable squads to immediately test patients they suspect are having a heart attack, a media release said. Squad members then can phone ahead to have the Bassett Cardiac Catheterization Lab ready for the patient. Upon arrival, patients can be taken directly to the lab, which speeds the process of getting a blocked vessel opened and saving heart muscle.

Today, Bassett has about 100 “heart alerts” a year. The BHCI Heart Alert program was among earlier programs of its type to be introduced in the state and is among the most important advances in the region, Lancey said. 

“It is the gold standard now in heart care,” Lancey, chief of the BHCI cardiac division, said in a prepared statement.

Morgan described to the audience Wednesday how, as a Bassett patient, he benefited from life-saving heart treatment, including bypass surgery, during the past 12 years. He supports the BHCI not only because it is among the best providers in the country but also because the center is small enough that physicians know their patients and are able to work in an environment that fosters creative thinking.

The BHCI program also offers advanced electrophysiology services, the release said, and surgery to bypass coronary arteries, correct arrhythmias and repair and replace faulty heart valves, plus availability of ventricular assist devices to save failing hearts.

The BHCI has cardiac rehabilitation programs at Bassett facilities in Cooperstown, Herkimer and at FoxCare in Oneonta, and there are outpatient cardiology clinics at sites throughout Bassett’s eight-county coverage area.

“We’re dedicated to taking care of people,” Lancey told the audience Wednesday.