Nelson's cardiology team's rates 'fantastic'

If you are going to have heart problems, Nelson is the place to be.

With one of the best intervention rates in the country, Nelson Hospital's cardiology team is saving lives.

Dr Sam Wilson began at the hospital last month, the second interventional cardiologist to join the team.

Interventional cardiology is a branch of cardiology (disorders of the heart) that deals specifically with the catheter-based treatment of structural heart diseases.

Head of department Nick Fisher, the other interventional cardiologist, said although it was unusual to have two such specialists at a hospital the size of Nelson, it was beneficial to the population.

Now that Dr Wilson was here, Nelson Hospital could offer a 52-week a year service. Previously, if Dr Fisher had been sick or on leave, patients needing angioplasties or angiograms would have been sent to Wellington Hospital, he said.

This fact was driven home last week when Rodney Boulton suffered a severe heart attack. Mr Boulton was shocked eight times in Okiwi Bay by an automated external defibrillator before being taken by helicopter to Nelson Hospital.

Dr Fisher was away last week, and if Dr Wilson had not been there Mr Boulton would have arrived at Nelson only to be transferred up to Wellington.

Dr Wilson said it was a chain of events that kept Mr Boulton alive.

The most important was the availability of the defibrillator, but having a cardiologist on hand was also important.

"There's no way he would have survived the trip to Wellington, his heart wasn't strong enough. He was incredibly lucky."

By the time the 45-minute procedure, where Dr Wilson inserted a stent in Mr Boulton's coronary artery, was finished, he was showing signs of recovery.

The fact Mr Boulton was found when he was, that the helicopter could make it in a timely fashion, that the piece of equipment was available – if those things were not there his part would have been unnecessary, Dr Wilson said.

Dr Fisher said Nelson's fantastic intervention rate was down not only to his team, but to the successful integration with primary health services.

The ability to get early referrals from the GPs was important because knowing in advance was always useful, he said.

Dr Wilson said the ability to communicate with emergency services was also key.

"The equipment the helicopter had meant they could transmit what Mr Boulton's heart was doing. We knew how far away he was, what was happening to his heart, and meant we could open the cath lab [catheterisation laboratory]."

It was patients like Mr Boulton that drove home the importance of what they, as cardiologists did, Dr Wilson said.

"It's incredibly rewarding. The high-risk patients, who are incredibly sick, they are the ones who actually have the most to gain."

Part of his appointment was for the exact reason Mr Boulton presented, Dr Wilson said.

"When Nick [Fisher] is away there was no interventional cardiologist here. For people like Mr Boulton they wouldn't have been able to get this treatment [in Nelson]."