July 18, 2008

Manchin Agrees to Open Up Angioplasty to More Hospitals

By Jake Stump, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

Jul. 18--Gov. Joe Manchin has approved, with one exception, the West Virginia Health Care Authority's decision to allow hospitals in the state to perform cardio angioplasty and other catheterization services.

In a prepared statement, Manchin said he agreed with the Health Care Authority but wanted it to clean up ambiguous language in one part of the revised rules before fully approving the new standards.

In June, the Health Care Authority passed these new rules so that hospitals could conduct emergency angioplasty and catheterization services without open heart backup.

The issue has been contentious among health care officials. Smaller hospitals tend to agree with the new standards as they say immediate angioplasty could save lives. Larger hospitals, however, argue that it could compromise patient care. For instance, critics of the new rules say time could be lost if a smaller hospital fails to revive a patient on the operating table and needs to transfer them to another facility.

Under the existing system, only hospitals with on-site cardiac surgery can perform angioplasty, which clears blood flow to the heart. Smaller hospitals do not have this option.

"Any time we're charged with making a decision that affects the quality of health care for our citizens, it's a decision that must be carefully considered," Manchin said today. "In this case, we've taken a very close look at data gathered over several years, and a number of other facts about the ability of our hospitals to perform heart angioplasty procedures that have the potential to save hundreds of lives, especially given our state's high heart disease rates and rural nature.

Manchin added, "Based upon this research, and the recommendation of the Health Care Authority, I am approving the majority of the standards that will give our citizens easier access to important emergency heart procedures."

However, the governor noted that there was a bit of ambiguity in the term, "medical transport drive time," within a section of the rules.

Manchin spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg said it doesn't solidly define 'medical transport drive time.'

"Is it the amount of time you spend driving or does the clock start when you're preparing a patient for travel and moving them into an ambulance?" Ramsburg asked.

The governor advised the Health Care Authority to quickly correct the language and send the rules back to him for reconsideration.

Ramsburg said the Governor's Office has heard from both sides of the issue.

"A majority of doctors were in support of this," she said. "If you look at recent studies across the country, you'd find this is an acceptable practice."


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