Tauranga Hospital Injects $1.5 Million Into New Cardiac Catheterization Lab

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Jason Money, Clinical Nurse in Charge of Tauranga Hospital, in the current catheterization lab. Photo / Provided

Tauranga Hospital has injected $1.5 million into the creation of an additional cardiac catheterization lab as demand for specialist cardiac monitoring services soars.

A commercial agreement worth $1.5 million to equip a new Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory (Cath Lab) at Tauranga Hospital had been issued by Tauranga City Council.

Current pressures on the hospital’s cath lab alone, where around 1,200 procedures were performed a year, necessitated the expansion to a second operating theatre.

It was among 190 residential and commercial building permits issued that month, together valued at more than $96.8 million.

A catheterization lab is a specialized area focused on X-rays and internal monitoring of heart parameters to help diagnose and treat heart problems, including blocked arteries and slow, fast, or irregular heartbeats.

Keyhole-type procedures on aortic aneurysms were also performed at Tauranga Hospital’s catheterization laboratory instead of patients needing open surgery.

Tauranga Hospital’s clinical nurse in charge, Jason Money, said demand for the service was supporting investment in building additional capacity.

“Over the past three years, we have juggled the ability to provide access to both elective work and inpatient work without risking increased access for either stream.

“We have demonstrated almost 100% utilization of our current resource for three years now.

“With an expectation of a regional role in equity of access and the current pressures on our unique cath lab (performing 1200 procedures per year), planning has begun to expand to a second theater.”

Money said the hospital currently provides imaging of heart arteries (angiography), repair of blockages with balloons or scaffolds (stents), pacemakers and internal shock boxes (defibrillators), study of heart rhythms (electrophysiology) and the correction of rapid or irregular rhythms (ablation) in its only catheterization laboratory.

“Our current lab has reached its maximum utilization and we will expand into the new catheterization lab.

“It’s important with the work that waits longer and is part of the solution to increase access to diagnosis and care at regional and national levels.”

The hospital is already taking care of patients from eastern Bay of Plenty, including Whakatāne Hospital, he said.

Money said the current cath lab is staffed with a team of cardiologists (doctors), nurses, clinical physiologists and radiographers, with an average of five professionals for each procedure.

“We also prepare and collect patients in an adjacent area.”

There were currently nine nurses, six doctors, five clinical physiologists and six radiographers who alternate in the region between other cardiology and radiology duties.

“Only nurses work full-time in the catheterization laboratory department.

“We will be increasing our workforce by at least 10 mixed-discipline employees for a second (new) cath lab.”

The new cath lab was about 50 square meters and housed a large x-ray machine, bed and monitors to view x-ray images, pressure waves and heart rhythms, as well as an outdoor control room from the lab, he said.

The new lab next to the hospital’s current cath lab provided readily available space for planned future growth, Money said.

“Neing a new cath lab but having to create space in the hospital for it later could lead to a huge increase in costs and a stretching and doubling of the resources needed.”

The fit-up will include air conditioning, ceiling, flooring, electrical services to support clinical equipment, and installation of x-ray and monitoring equipment.

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