Tennessee lawmakers work on bill to improve care for heart attack patients

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Tennessee lawmakers are working to make sure those who are experiencing the most serious of heart attacks get the care they need and get it fast. The legislation is waiting on the governor’s signature.

Dr. Stuart Bresee started his career in cardiology in 1991 and caring for heart attacks has changed over time. 

“More recently we’ve been using balloons and stents to stop them,” he said.

UT Medical Center’s heart hospital has analyzed their patients, when it comes to time, based on whether they went to a small hospital and then transferred or came directly to UTMC.

“And found that it can take up to 90 minutes longer to go through a small hospital and 90 minutes, there’s a very high mortality. It looks like for every 10 minutes delay, you can have one percent higher mortality,” added Dr. Bresee.

House Bill 2209 would set up a network of hospitals certified in heart attacks, specifically ones called STEMI.

“We don’t really want them wasting time at a facility that can’t help them,” said State Sen. Richard Briggs.

The state’s health department would certify clinics. Bigger hospitals would be deemed receiving hospitals, or ones with 24-hour coverage, prepared to put in stents, heart catheterization and perform surgery.

“I think that the bill is a great thing for the state of Tennessee,” said Dr. Bresee.

Smaller hospitals in more rural counties could be certified as referring ones.

“They would have a protocol set up with the receiving hospitals so if they come there first, then they’re kept for just a minimum amount of time. They’re literally picked up by a helicopter, they’re put in an ambulance and they’re moved as rapidly as possible,” added Briggs.

The legislation also establishes protocols for the triage and transport of heart attack patients.

“We’re trying to save lives and we’re trying to improve the quality of life after someone has a major heart attack,” said Briggs.

Legislators and doctors agree that the take home message is to call 911 if you feel that you’re having a heart attack so that you can receive care much faster.

Lawmakers drew inspiration for this bill from one they created last year. It’s now law and set up a statewide stroke network, focusing on getting stroke patients to the right hospital and getting care fast.

Briggs says doing the same thing for heart attack patients is satisfying because they’re making laws that really impact how people live.

A hospital’s protocol and plans are established by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology. Lawmakers say as time goes on, they may add more elements to this bill so treatment can be even more effective in Tennessee.

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