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After 25 Years, Mercy Heart Center Tranforming into Mercy Heart and Vascular Institute - Archived
Start Date
03/10/2014
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(Mason City, IA) Mercy Heart Center has recently transformed into the Mercy Heart and Vascular Institute with a broader focus on treatments for the entire cardiovascular system. This change is just the latest step in the evolution of cardiovascular care at Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa that has transpired over the past 25 years.

In the late 1980’s months of research were dedicated to determining the need for comprehensive heart care in North Iowa and the feasibility of offering it. At that time, most heart patients were sent to Des Moines, Mayo Clinic, and University of Iowa.

After receiving the support of doctors and hospitals throughout Iowa, Mercy Heart Center was developed in 1989 to provide a full-range of cardiac services.

“At that time, patients had to travel up to 100 miles to receive sophisticated heart care,” said Mitch Morrison, Director of the Heart Center since its inception. “Our goal when we started the program was to offer heart surgery, angioplasty, and advanced diagnostic and therapeutic services to a region that was in real need of cardiac care closer to home,” he said.

The Cardiac Cath Lab opened in December 1988, allowing patients to have invasive and diagnostic catheterization procedures close to home for the first time. The first Coronary Artery ByPass Graph at Mercy – North Iowa was performed on April 3, 1989. The program started with just one cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon.

As early as 1990, Mercy Heart Center began adding services to its program, including interventional cardiology, angioplasty, and coronary stenting. The Heart Center also began providing outreach clinics in area counties. They now see patients in ten counties outside of Cerro Gordo county. Patients can be referred by their local provider and choose to have an appointment in their local community or travel to Mason City.

In 2002, Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa began a Cardiology Fellowship program to train new cardiologists. In 2010, the program was expanded to include an Interventional Cardiology Fellowship. Nine cardiologists have graduated from Mercy’s Cardiology Fellowship program and three have gone on to complete the Interventional Cardiology Fellowship. There are currently five Fellows in various stages of the three-year program. The program will expand to six fellows in July 2014.

In 2005, Mercy Heart Center the expanded cardiac program with the addition of an Electrophyisiologist. Electrophysiology services include implanting pacemakers and defibrillators or using ablation to regulate the heart’s electrical system. In the last two years, the program grew to three Electrophysiologists.

In 2012, Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa completed a comprehensive two-year study of the cardiovascular health trends in the North Iowa area. The study found a significantly lower treatment of vascular disease compared to state and national data. This finding indicates that there are a number of people in Northern Iowa living with vascular disease that is going undiagnosed and, consequently, untreated.

As a result of the study, Mercy has formed the Heart and Vascular Institute, incorporating all treatments of vascular disease – including peripheral arterial disease and venous disease – along with treatments for heart disease, under one umbrella.

“As we evaluated our heart and vascular services, we realized that offering services in a centralized department would make the referral process easier for the primary care physicians,” said Paul Manternach, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Mercy – North Iowa. “Now the Institute has one referral point so physicians can call one number and our team of providers will determine what type of treatment is needed.”

The Institute’s Care Team now consists of Vascular Surgery, Cardiology and Interventional Radiology.

The Mercy Heart and Vascular Institute is implementing a screening program to the entire North Iowa area to help patients and providers identify vascular disease earlier, when treatments are more effective. The program, known as the Step Up and Get Screened Program, will be available at Critical Access Hospitals and clinics within the Mercy Health Network - North Iowa.

A $1 million donation from the Sukup Family Foundation will help unite the Mercy Heart and Vascular Institute’s services into one area. The donation will contribute to the reconstruction of the existing two cardiac catheterization labs, the electrophysiology lab and the procedure recovery unit, and the addition of a hybrid cardiovascular suite capable of performing both catheter-based procedures and open-surgical procedures. The new cardiovascular suite will enhance Mercy-North Iowa’s cardiovascular procedures that require specialized equipment and environment.

“The creation of a cardiovascular suite will centralize many of the cardiovascular procedures we do now. This will help us provide efficient, patient-focused care,” said Samual Congello, D.O., Interventional Cardiologist for the Institute. “In addition, we will have the capability of performing invasive surgeries in the procedural hybrid suite, if medically necessary. Not having to move the patient is a great benefit. This will be one of the few true hybrid labs in the Midwest.”

Construction on the Cardiovascular Suite has already begun and is expected to be completed in late 2014.

Over the past 25 years, the Mercy Heart Center has been recognized for many quality achievements in cardiac care, most recently the Blue Distinction Plus (+) center for cardiac care by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield – an award recognizing high quality health care in addition to cost-efficient delivery of that care.

The Mercy Heart and Vascular Institute is a partnership Mercy has established with interventional radiologists, vascular surgery and cardiologists to better screen, diagnose and treat individuals with vascular and coronary disease. Earlier detection of the disease will save lives and enhance the quality of life of people in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

The Mercy Health Network – North Iowa is a partnership of health systems throughout northern Iowa, including; Ellsworth Municipal Hospital in Iowa Falls, Franklin General Hospital in Hampton, Hancock County Health System in Britt, Kossuth Regional Health Center in Algona, Mercy Medical Center – New Hampton in New Hampton, Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa in Mason City, Mitchell County Regional Health Center in Osage, Palo Alto Regional Health System in Emmetsburg and Regional Health Services of Howard County in Cresco. The Mercy Heart and Vascular Institute provides outreach clinics in these locations and Charles City and Clarion.
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