Cardiac care in Kelowna dates to the late 1970s when the city’s first two cardiologists began their practices.
It was 1978 when Dr. Dorrance Bowers and Dr. Bert Brosseuk started a division of cardiology in Kelowna.
But back then, cardiac services were merely of the diagnostic nature.
“They basically did angiograms at the hospital and the doctors saw patients here in the office,” said Martha Ruck, longtime office manager at the cardiology clinic. “It was very simple.”
The cardiology clinic on Pandosy Street, just a few blocks away from Kelowna General Hospital (KGH), opened in the early 1980s.
Ruck has worked there since and has watched it grow both in size and the services it provides.
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“When there were just two physicians here, they knew they could only do so much,” she said. “But their dream always was to have the cardiac angiogram or cardiac catheterization done here.”
The doctors recruited a third cardiologist, Dr. Denton Corrigail, and with a community fundraising campaign, equipped the hospital with its first diagnostic catheterization lab in the early 1980s.
But Ruck said the doctors had even bigger dreams for KGH and its patients.
“The dream in the back of their minds, I think, was to someday have surgery here,” she said.
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That dream was eventually realized, but not until decades later.
Dr. Frank Halperin came on board in 2004 when cardiac services were still fairly basic.
“We were mainly able to do diagnostics and we could do therapeutics in terms of medications and pacemakers, but if anybody needed advanced services, those patients had to go down to Vancouver,” Halperin told Global News.
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But the 400-plus kilometre journey for life-saving treatment, said Halperin, for some was just too much.
“Oh, it was incredible. There were lots of patients who needed the angioplasty, patients who needed bypass,” he said.
“And to be honest some people it was just too hard for them to travel and they just wouldn’t go.”
Three years later, the provincial government announced that B.C.’s fifth cardiac centre would be located in Kelowna.
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That paved the way for two new, state-of-the-art cath labs, where heart attack patients could finally get an angioplasty to restore blood flow.
Then in 2012, another major milestone as the first ever open-heart surgery was performed at KGH.
But the cardiac program isn’t finished growing just yet.
“We don’t have everything yet,” Halperin said. “The one missing piece at this point is advanced electrical work.”
That entails building and equipping KGH with an electrophysiology lab, where numerous heart arrhythmia conditions could be treated.
It would result in hundreds of patients being able to be treated closer to home every year.
“They won’t need to travel down to Vancouver or Victoria for this advanced service,” Halperin said. “They will be able to get the same treatments here. It will really be a game changer for them.”
The KGH Foundation has launched a $7 million campaign called ‘Right Here at KGH’ to help bring an electrophysiology to the hospital.
Once the lab is in place, it will complete the Interior Health’s cardiac sciences program.
That will mean that with the exception of heart transplants, KGH will be able to offer all cardiac services locally.
Click here for more information on the ‘Right Here at KGH’ campaign.