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Camden Clark cardiac center pulses through Mid-Ohio Valley

Dr. Geoffrey Cousins, chief of cardiac surgery at WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — As more heart and cardiac services are being offered at WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center, people are getting the care they need in this area as opposed to going to somewhere like Columbus or Cleveland to get specialty care.

It has been almost a year since the opening of the Parkersburg Cardiology Associates and the WVU Heart & Vascular Institute at Camden Clark. February is American Heart Month.

Camden Clark President and CEO Steve Altmiller said they have had heart surgeons for a number of years since the merger with St. Joseph’s Hospital, but now everything is centrally located at the center while having access to resources in Morgantown.

“What is unique about today is we have had more consistency and continuity of coverage,” Altmiller said.

The cardiac surgeons offer a range of services include aortic surgery; atrial fibrillation surgery; bypass surgery; congenital heart surgery; hypertrophic cardiomyopathy surgery – septal myectomy; heart failure surgery – left ventricular assist devices; left ventricular reconstruction and valve surgery.

Dr. David Gnegy of Parkersburg Cardiac Associates and Chelsea Mathews, Cath Lab RN, look over a patient’s coronary angiography at the Camden Clark Cardiac Cath Lab. Camden Clark has a variety of heart services available at the hospital and through Parkersburg Cardiac Associates, located on the medical center’s campus, and at the WVU Heart & Vascular Institute. (Photo Provided)

Parkersburg Cardiology offers services such as diagnosing heart conditions using state-of-the-art technology, including echocardiography and nuclear imaging; performing angioplasty, stent placement and other procedures to open up blocked arteries; implant devices, such as pacemakers, for people with heart rhythm problems; and providing long-term follow-up care for patients with heart failure, heart valve problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, angina (chest pain), vascular disease and other heart-related conditions.

Patients have easier access to heart physicians now with the new Parkersburg Cardiology facility on campus which provides closer access to the facilities of the medical center.

“It is easier for the cardiologists to be on campus and close for where the patients are,” Altmiller said.

Also, through the institute, local doctors have access and can consult with doctors in Morgantown on a variety of cases, officials said.

Since Camden Clark and the institute are on the same electronic medical record system, doctors in Morgantown can access those records and provide their opinions if sought, they added.

The entire team of the Camden Clark Cath Lab after receiving Chest Pain Center Accreditation with Primary PCI and Resuscitation from the American College of Cardiology, based on an onsite evaluation of the staff’s ability to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack. (Photo Provided)

Over the past year, there were around 180 open-heart procedures done at the medical center, significantly more than the previous year, which Altmiller says speaks to the prevalence of heart disease in the area and the demand for heart surgery in this region.

The Camden Clark Cath Lab is where cardiac catheterization is performed to diagnose the presence of heart disease, such as blocked coronary arteries, to evaluate blood flow to the heart and determine the condition of heart muscle, coronary arteries and the valves and chambers of the heart. Pacemaker and defibrillator insertions are also performed in the lab.

The Cath Lab was recently awarded Chest Pain Center Accreditation with Primary PCI and Resuscitation from the American College of Cardiology based on an onsite evaluation of the staff’s ability to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack.

Dr. David A. Gnegy, president and chairman of Parkersburg Cardiology, vice president of medical affairs for Camden Clark, medical director – Cath Lab and Cardiac Services, said the area has had heart services since the early 1970s through Parkersburg Cardiology and has had a close relationship with the medical school at WVU with people from there helping to establish the local cath lab.

Services have continued to grow to include a variety of services over the years, including open heart procedures.

Dr. Geoffrey Cousins, chief of cardiac surgery at WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center. (Photo Provided)

Parkersburg Cardiology has grown to eight physicians and seven advanced practice nurses with special training in cardiac care.

“It allows that whole continuum of care in their own community with the ability to call Morgantown if we need to consult on any issues or concerns,” Gnegy said. “If they need higher level of care or some special procedures we don’t perform here, we have a seamless avenue to get them to Morgantown.

“Having that relationship has advanced a level of medicine in our community which has taken this hospital to the next level. It has allowed us to attract more sub-specialists. It has been a win-win for the physician community and our patients.”

Camden Clark also hired Dr. Geoffrey Cousins as the chief of cardiac surgery. Cousins, a native West Virginian from McDowell County, is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon and is a member of the WVU Heart & Vascular Institute at Camden Clark.

He specializes in open-heart surgery and is a leading expert in beating-heart surgery, an open-heart technique which eliminates the need for a heart-lung machine during the surgery, officials said.

Because of Cousins, patients and families that once went to Columbus, Cleveland or Cincinnati stay here, officials said.

“The main thing we want the community to know is that if you have an issue with your heart that you have access to people who can manage that here,” Cousins said. “Heart surgery is one of the biggest surgeries you can have. I think people don’t understand that we have the capacity to take care of your heart here. They automatically think they have to go somewhere else.”

Many issues arise when people leave town, he said. Family members also have to take family medical leave to drive miles away. They are also living in a hotel and buying fast food.

“At a time when they may not be making an adequate paycheck they are faced with increased expenses,” Cousins said. “If you come here, your family members can come visit and go to work if they need to.

“They can come after work and not have to take any leave. They can save that time for when you come home from the hospital when you may need some assistance for a few days after you have had heart surgery.”

The doctors at Camden Clark and Parkersburg Cardiology can handle a number of heart-related issues. Things like transplants and other specialized procedures will be sent to Ruby Memorial in Morgantown.

However with a variety of services available, officials at Camden Clark want people to come to them first if they feel they are having issues with their heart.

“I think that is something we really need to impress on the community,” Dr. Cousins said. “If they have issues with their heart they need to stop here first.

“Likely, we can resolve the issue for you. There will be very few people we would have to send out for other issues.”

He said it is still better to been seen by someone here in this community before leaving. Many patients have commented on the quality of care they have received at Camden Clark from the staff to the facilities to the technology being used, he said.

“We focus on the quality of the work we do and the results we have,” Cousins said. “What we have found is that patients and their families are having great experiences here at Camden Clark when they have heart surgery.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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