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Local hospital's cardiology department named among top 100 in nation

By Katie Demeria

Local residents with heart problems will not have to travel far if they are looking for nationally recognized care. Becker's Hospital Review included Winchester Medical Center's cardiology department on its list of "100 Hospitals with Great Heart Programs."

The list included cardiovascular departments from around the country, many of which have been recognized by such sources as U.S. News & World Report and the American College of Cardiology Foundation.

For Drs. Jason Call, Neal Gaither and Edward R. Kofsky of the medical center's cardiology department, this distinction only strengthens their belief that the program offers excellent care to the Shenandoah Valley.

Call, the chairman for the division of cardiology and an interventional cardiologist, said one of the reasons the program has done so well in recent years comes from an introspection that allows them to continuously improve their services.

"For the last five to eight years we've sat down and tried to organize what we're doing, gather the appropriate data, implement changes and look at how those changes are having an effect," he said.

This work has paid off, Call added: in recent years the cardiology department has been given the highest award possible from the American College of Cardiology.

Those awards were cited as part of the reason for the center's inclusion on Becker's Hospital Review list, along with the facility ranking as a Blue Distinction Center+ for cardiac care, a title awarded by Blue Cross Blue Shield earlier this year.

The Blue Distinction Center+ title recognizes hospitals that offer high quality care to their patients, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield website.

"It's great that a lot of the things that we're doing and spending our creative energy on are making a difference," Call said.

Gaither is the medical director of the chest pain center, one of the many divisions making up the cardiology department. The center's success, he said, also depends on an introspective approach to their work.

"There's a continuous improvement process, and over the years we have maintained and improved our treatments so we are now in the very top few percent in the country in terms of our times and our accuracy rates," Gaither said.

Kofsky, the medical director for the cardiovascular program and chief surgeon, referred to those accuracy rates as "door to balloon time." It is one of the many metrics used to judge hospitals' success rates, measuring how long it takes a patient to go from the emergency room to the catheterization laboratory to have a balloon or stint added to an artery.

Other metrics include what types of medications physicians are using to treat chest problems and the kinds of surgical procedures used to treat a heart attack.

"We have done very well on these national metrics," Kofsky said. "There are a lot of people involved, and they all work very hard.

"I think our quality and recognition really has to do with a combination of the accomplishments of our cardiologists and their very, very good work, and the surgeons doing excellent work as well," he continued.

The entire surgical team has worked to make the program as successful as it is, Kofsky added, from nurses to anesthesiologists.

In fact, Call, Gaither and Kofsky all claim that the program's recognition is due to the commitment of every individual within the department.

"I do think we have a great team of very skilled people, from the nursing staff through physicians and surgeons, that have worked very hard in collaboration to provide good care to our patients," Gaither said.

Though Winchester Medical Center's cardiology department is only a medium-sized facility, treating about 280 to 300 cases every year according to Kofsky, it has been able to hold its own against other larger programs.

For Kofsky, the hospital's smaller size only increases the desire of individuals within the department to serve the area well. Patients do not want to travel a long way to receive the treatment they need, and they should not have to, he said.

"We're a pretty scrappy regional hospital that wants to maintain a cutting edge of excellence," he added. "The community deserves it."

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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