ZEPHYRHILLS — When it comes to cardiac care, those in the health care industry have a saying: Time is muscle.
So when patients show up in the emergency department with chest pain, the sooner they get treatment, the better their chances of survival.
At Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, the goal is to allow no more than and hour and a half to elapse before patients get sent to the lab to be checked for a possible blockage.
The shortened wait times are part of what earned the hospital a national accreditation from the Society of Chest Pain Centers. It is the only east Pasco hospital with that designation.
"Any hospital can say they are a chest pain center," said Gwen Alonso, administrative director of the hospital's Heart Institute and the driving force behind the accreditation. She said the hospital considered the program important because "this shows you and shows our community we are committed to improvement."
Alonso described the process as a strategic collaboration with the hospital's Emergency Department team.
Established in 1998, the Society of Chest Pain Centers is a nonprofit international society based in Columbus, Ohio, that bridges cardiology, emergency medicine and other professions focused upon improving care for patients with acute coronary syndromes and acute heart failure.
The society's Web site says it brings in a team to assess a hospital's procedures and identify areas that can be improved. The hospital responds and then is evaluated.
Alonso said the hospital team collaborated with Pasco County Fire Rescue, the emergency medical staff and the staff of its cardiac catheterization labs to come up with a streamlined process.
"You have to start with breaking down the silos," she said.
Two west Pasco hospitals also have the designation: Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Community Hospital in New Port Richey. The closest hospitals to Florida Hospital Zephyrhills that also have it are University Community Hospital in Tampa and Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
The main reasons behind Zephyrhills' pursuit of the designation are the area's large elderly population and the half hour drive to UCH or Lakeland, hospital officials say. When it comes to heart attacks, every minute is critical.
"We continue to make progress in eliminating wait times while also eliminating the time it takes for treatment in our Emergency Department," director Kim McDermott said. "We have integrated our department with our local emergency medical system and have developed a collaborative process with our Heart Institute that promotes timely and expert care."
The hospital expects to serve the east Pasco area, as well as parts of the Wesley Chapel market between Interstate 75 and U.S. 301. Residents in the southern part of Wesley Chapel will be closer to UCH, which has "a fine heart program," said John Harding, president and CEO of Florida Hospital Zephyrhills.
"This is primarily for the citizens of Zephyrhills," he said. "Obviously if someone is having chest pain we want them to call 911."
Lisa Buie can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4604.