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Medical center’s cardiac catheterization lab earns accreditation

The Winchester Medical Center has had its cardiac catheterization laboratory accredited by the American College of Cardiology, the first cath lab in Virginia and the fifth nationwide to receive the distinction.

“The American College of Cardiology is the premier body that oversees the cardiovascular care from a professional standpoint in the U.S.,” said Neal Gaither, medical director of the Winchester Medical Center Cardiac Cath Lab.

Gaither described the accreditation standards from the American College of Cardiology as particularly strict. While other accrediting bodies like the Joint Commission, a non-profit organization that does accreditation of medical institutions, may look at the performance of a hospital as a whole, the American College of Cardiology looks deeply at individual parts of the hospital.

“The Joint Commission doesn’t really dig into the nuts and bolts of the treatment process,” Gaither said. “The joint commission is purely sort of global. It looks at the entire hospital system.”

Gaither said that the cath lab at Winchester Medical Center spent about six months collecting and reporting data and trying to improve its treatment procedures before it was able to qualify for the accreditation.

In order to qualify, the cath lab had to work on reducing the number of kidney injuries that result from catheterization. (Kidney injury is a common side effect of a common catheterization procedure.)

Because of these strict requirements, Gaither described the accreditation status as an honor.

Receiving accreditation from the American College of Cardiology “means that your processes are really up-to-date, the treatment is state-of-the-art and your outcomes are consistent with excellent cardiovascular care,” Gaither said.

Gaither added that he believes Winchester Medical Center excels in its treatment of heart disease as a whole.

“We are in the top 10 percent of the country in terms of what we call door-to-balloon time, which is one measure applied to facilities that treat patients with heart attacks,” Gaither said. “When someone shows up at our door, we get them treated very, very quickly.”

Gaither said that representatives from the American College of Cardiology visited Winchester Medical Center on Nov. 1 in order to evaluate the cardiac cath lab. The representatives told the cath lab that day that they would receive accreditation.

The cath lab heard official word of its accreditation status on Nov. 21.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the heart attack response measure Winchester Medical Center is in the top 10 percent of the country in is called “door-to-balloon time.”

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