Within a decade, Dr. Maxwell Prempeh — a Harbin Clinic interventional cardiologist and the medical director of cardiovascular services at Cartersville Medical Center (CMC) — fully expects the local hospital to provide structural and valvular heart surgeries.
And the road to that kind of cardiological care in Cartersville may have started last month with the filing of a certificate of need to Georgia's Department of Community Health.
CMC, via a loan from its parent company Hospital Corp. of America, is planning to invest almost $4 million in cardiovascular services expansions and renovations.
"We do anticipate approval without any problems, and that's because there's such strong justification for the volume that we have experienced in growth in cardiology," said CMC COO Lori Rakes.
Over the last five years, she said catheterization lab procedures at CMC have increased 77 percent, while echocardiography lab services have increased 12 percent.
Under CMC's expansion proposal, its stress lab and echocardiography lab will be moved into the same area as the rest of its cardiology services. The plan also includes the addition of a new cath lab, which takes advantage of advanced biplane imaging technology, as well as another stress lab.
"It really makes it an area that's very patient-friendly, both for the outpatient environment as well as the inpatient environment," Rakes said.
In total, she said CMC looks to spend about $1.3 million on equipment upgrades and add about 4,000 square feet to its cardiology services footprint.
"With the biplane technology, what that allows us to do is really be able to plan for the future," she said, "and give us the capacity to do a wider variation of more complex procedures."
That includes opening up opportunities for new vascular and neurosurgery services. In fact, Rakes said several neurosurgery specialists have already interviewed with the hospital; she said she expects to have several onboard with CMC by next summer.
Prempeh said he's especially excited about the expansion allowing for treatment of peripheral vascular disease.
"We'll be able to do peripheral interventions, primarily through Dr. Rajeeve Subbiah, and we plan on doing stents, essentially, in the kidney arteries, the arm arteries, the legs," he said. "We're not going to be getting into the pacemakers just yet, but we plan on bringing pacemaker implantations soon."
The proposed expansion, Rakes said, would have a pronounced impact on CMC's emergency room, imaging, ICU and inpatient services.
"Cardiology is one of our service lines that just performs beautifully," she said. "We have great support from the community, from the rest of our medical staff and it impacts so many departments in the hospital."
She said she anticipates the certificate of need to be approved around November, with construction set to begin immediately thereafter. By this time next year, she said she expects CMC's expanded cardiological services to be fully operational.
"Our driving intention is to make sure that we can provide the needed services for residents in Bartow County without them having to leave for care that we feel like we can provide," she said. "By being able to run two labs at the same time, it frees up that ability to do so ... that will just add further ability for us to be able to respond very quickly to patient needs."
Considering many patients who have conditions such as coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure usually have peripheral vascular disease as well, Prempeh said he certainly expects the expanded cardiology services line to bring more patients to CMC.
"We'd like to be able to keep everything local," he said. "In the past we've had to send people out for certain procedures and I think with the new expansion we'll be able to retain a lot more of the patients here at CMC and Bartow County, where they feel more comfortable rather than having to travel to other places."
The new technology, Rakes said, won't just allow CMC to offer more cardiovascular services in the short term. She also said it will allow Prempeh and his interventional cardiology colleagues to identify — and then begin the implementation processes for — new procedures that may be performed at the hospital in the near future.
"In 10 years, I see us having cardiothoracic surgery here to expand the cardiovascular service even more, to have open-heart surgery," Prempeh said. "As well as electrophysiology being done here for your atrial fibrillations."