Philadelphia Business Journal
Phoenixville Hospital is getting ready to build a third cardiac-catheterization laboratory to keep pace with patient demand at its burgeoning heart program.
The Chester County hospital performed 1,192 diagnostic and therapeutic catheterization procedures — such as balloon angioplasties to clear blocked arteries — in 2007, the year its second cath lab opened.
This year the medical center expects that number to reach 2,059 procedures.
“This is an area where we’ve had significant growth,” said Stephen Tullman, president and CEO of the hospital. “We’re at capacity at the two cath labs now.”
The $3 million price tag for a new cath lab is a small portion of an ongoing expansion and renovation project expected to carry a final cost of between $90 million and $100 million when completed over the next two years.
Phoenixville Hospital — which is owned by Community Health Systems of Franklin, Tenn. — last year concluded the bulk of its expansion, spending $80 million on a new patient tower, a medical office building and much-needed parking garage. The tower project enabled the medical center to grow from 138 hospital beds to 160 beds, all now in private rooms. The hospital also increased its count of intensive-care units and telemetry beds, which feature continuous monitoring.
Expanding the hospital’s heart program is a strategy that began in early 2002 and continues today. The hospital performed its first cardiac intervention and first open-heart surgery in 2003. Over the years, other services were added, such as implantable defibrillators and peripheral intervention procedures, robotic-assisted surgery and, last year, electrophysiology.
Phoenixville Hospital has a clinical affiliation in cardiology (along with oncology, pathology and diagnostic imaging) with the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Tullman cited several factors for the growth of the hospital’s heart program.
He said the hospital has recruited one of the largest groups of acute-care cardiologists in the region. A 12th heart physician, Dr. Karthik K. Linganathan, who specializes in the care of chronic heart failure patients, is joining the team later this month.
Tullman also noted the communities served by the hospital have grown with the housing boom in western Montgomery County and northern Chester County over the past decade. In addition, he said, the region’s population has aged and older residents require more heart care. And they want to get that care close to home.
“Patients want to stay here,” said Dr. Hans M. Haupt, director of cardiothoracic surgery at Phoenixville and the surgeon who performed the first open-heart surgery at the hospital in 2003. “They don’t want to go into the city for surgery.”
Dr. Rajiv Dhawan, the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab co-director, said that “very few” patients at Phoenixville opt to make the trip to one of the larger Philadelphia hospitals for heart care. “We have all the technology and all the services here,” Dhawan said. “That really counts.”
Haupt said Phoenixville, like other hospitals around the region and the country, is seeing a decline in open-heart surgical procedures as more therapeutic catheterization procedures — such as those involving angioplasties and stents to clear blocked arteries — are handled in cath labs. He said Phoenixville’s surgical volume has not dropped dramatically because of the large volume of elderly patients the hospital serves who are not strong candidates for the cath lab procedures.
Dr. Herbert Fisher, an interventional cardiologist at Phoenixville, said one of the unique features being planned for the third catheterization lab is a “hybrid” operating room that will allow surgeons and interventional cardiologists to work side-by-side.
The hybrid OR will combine the high-tech imaging capabilities of a cath lab with a large operating room to allow a patient to receive an angioplasty, then a bypass procedure, without having to be transferred to a different room.
Fisher said Phoenixville Hospital is also in the planning stages of enhancing preventative primary-care programs in heart care to provide more diagnostic screening of otherwise healthy patients to catch heart ailments earlier.
“We do all these fancy procedures on patients who represent just a small section of the population we serve,” Fisher said. “We want to do more to keep patients out of the [operating room]. We do colonoscopies and mammograms now, we should be doing more Indianapolis heart examinations on patients at midlife.”