EKGs in LeeThree Agencies In Lee County Receive Grant-Funded Electrocardiogram Machines From Heart Institute

Enhanced heart care for residents of Lee County and nearby communities has arrived with placement of additional lifesaving equipment in the community.

Three Lee County emergency medical services agencies received 12-lead electrocardiogram machines from the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute at a ceremony Wednesday, Jan. 30. This group is the latest in Southwest Virginia to receive these machines, which help determine whether a patient is suffering a heart attack.

Entities that now have these EKGs are Jonesville Rescue Squad, Thomas Walker Volunteer Rescue Squad and Keokee Rescue Squad.

“We’re excited these agencies will have this equipment that empowers their caregivers to elevate the assistance they provide patients,” said Dr. Herb Ladley, a board-certified cardiologist with the heart institute and medical director of its Level One Heart Attack Network. “These additional EKG machines benefit patients greatly with early diagnoses that lead to quicker and more efficient delivery of expert heart care.”

Earlier this month, the heart institute placed EKGs with four agencies in Wise County – Appalachian Rescue Squad, Big Stone Gap Rescue Squad, Friendship Ambulance Service and Lifecare Ambulance Service. The heart institute also held a ceremony last week to place EKGs with three agencies in Dickenson County -- Dickenson County Ambulance Service, Clintwood Volunteer Rescue Squad and Haysi Rescue Squad.

Agencies in Russell County will also receive EKGs during an event on Sunday, Feb. 3.

Funding for these EKGs comes from a $200,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission to Wellmont Foundation. The foundation matched the grant with another $200,000.

Through this initiative, emergency medical services agencies in Dickenson, Lee, Russell and Wise counties received 19 EKG machines and upgrades to two others.

“This essential equipment will bolster the quality of medical care in Southwest Virginia tremendously and assure patients that lifesaving equipment is available when they need it,” said Greg Neal, president of Wellmont Health System’s community hospital division. “We’re grateful the Tobacco Commission demonstrated such a strong commitment to the welfare of this region.”

When emergency medical services providers perform an EKG on a patient’s heart, they can transmit the test to a hospital, where an emergency room physician reads it. If the physician concludes the patient is having a heart attack, the medical team in a cardiac catheterization lab can mobilize faster.

At Wellmont, precise coordination between the hospital and caregivers in the field, combined with the use of these EKGs, represents the Level One Heart Attack Network in action. Wellmont hospitals excel at this process, which has enabled blockages in a patient’s heart to be cleared in less than 15 minutes. The national gold standard is 90 minutes.

Another key to successful implementation of the network is the patient or a loved one calling 911 at the onset of heart attack symptoms.

“Minutes and seconds count when someone is having a heart attack, and our hospitals are fortunate to have outstanding medical providers assisting patients from the moment they meet,” said Dr. Guy Clark. “The process continues with the innovative work of remarkable caregivers at the hospital.

“Our region benefits from the commitment of everyone in the care process to utilize their expertise and resources such as these EKGs to save lives and enable patients to return to their normal routine as soon as possible.”

In addition to seeing patients in person at the hospital, Dr. Ladley and other cardiologists from the heart institute can manage care from Holston Valley Medical Center by consulting with patients through a video connection. This method, when it is medically appropriate, saves patients from having to travel for an appointment with a cardiologist.

“We’re pleased the level of heart care continues to grow in Lee County by building on long-established strengths with new opportunities to build a sustainable model of care,” Neal said. “It’s just another reminder to patients in our region that high-quality health care delivered with compassion is available close to home.”