Galion Hospital heart cath lab saving lives

GALION — Officials at Avita Health Systems say the Level II heart catheterization laboratory (cath lab) at Galion Hospital is saving the lives of heart attack victims in Galion and adjacent communities.

“Within minutes, you’re in an emergency room, you’re in an interventional lab. If you’re having a heart attack, you can get it fixed,” said Bob White, director of cardiovascular services at Avita Health System. “You don’t have to go to a tertiary center. You don’t have to fly on a helicopter. You don’t have to be transported a half hour, 45 minutes, an hour away. It’s right here.

“Mom and dad don’t want to drive the freeways. They don’t want to park in a parking garage,” White said. “The survivability rate for these heart attacks or people with severe coronary artery disease is so much better. Time is muscle, just like a stroke. So, the sooner you can get into an interventional site, the better.”

The Level II facility opened Aug. 14, 2018, according to White. Previously, he said, Galion Hospital was home to a Level I heart cath lab. Having a Level II lab greatly expands the services physicians can offer to the community.

“Level I is a diagnostic lab where we just look and see what the coronary arteries look like, but we don’t fix anything,” White said. “When you become a Level II, you have the opportunity to put in stents and balloons and intervene and fix things. Everything short of open-heart surgery.”

Cardiologists at Galion Hospital are making use of the latest technology in the race to save lives. Dr. Joseph R. Mayo said he receives real-time patient information through the LIFENET System, a web-based data network that connects EMS technicians with physicians. Mayo said it contributes to speeding up the life-saving process.

“The patient needs to be transported here and we are coming in at the same time he is being transported, so we basically meet at the same time,” he said. “That cuts time down, which then saves muscle. … As the clock ticks by, the heart muscle dies. If you wait long enough, there’s too much heart muscle that’s dead and you’re not going to accomplish much.”

Mayo said saving the heart muscle in a timely manner has greater ramifications than some might realize.

“Let’s say they’re a 40 or 45 year old; they have a family to support; they have three kids,” he said. “Now the heart is so weak, he can’t ever return to work again. Now he’s got to go on disability or whatever because he couldn’t get to a facility fast enough to get appropriate care to save the heart muscle. Being here in the community, being as responsive as we’ve shown we can be, not only are we saving lives, we’re saving heart muscle, which is huge for everyone living in this area.”

Thanks to the annual fundraising activities of the Galion Hospital Auxiliary, Avita was able to provide the LIFENET System to some of the local EMS departments that did not have the technology. The Auxiliary provided $14,070.50 to fund the project.

“The hospital, being a good steward, is saying, we’re going to invest in the EMS system to help patients get information faster to the guys who need it,” Mayo said.

White said the Galion Hospital team’s response time is phenomenal.

“The American College of Cardiology guidelines is 90 minutes,” he said. “Here, we have a fantastic door-to-balloon response time; it’s about 42 minutes. It’s in the top 10 percent in the state of Ohio. It’s something we’re proud of in this program, especially in a new program. Providing it for the people in this local community, that’s the real beauty of it.”

Kim Winkle, vice president of corporate relations and operational support at Avita, said she’s received positive feedback about the program from people in the community.

“I hear people talking about it all the time,” Winkle said. “And just about three weeks ago, the Galion-Crestline Chamber of Commerce called us and gave us an award for starting the program and bringing the service to the community. We didn’t even know that was going to happen. But the community saw what we’re doing here.”

The Avita cardiology team includes Dr. Michael Davis, who is the medical director of cath lab services, Dr. Ali Saab, and Dr. Virenkumar Patel.

Avita Health System will open another Level II heart cath lab on June 5 at its Ontario location, further expanding services for residents in the region. CEO Jerry Morasko said additional expansion is possible.

“Morrow County (commissioners) put out an RFP (request for proposals) to sell or lease the hospital (in Mount Gilead), and Avita will be there with a proposal. Guaranteed,” Morasko said. “We think Morrow County would be a good fit with the Avita family. We know how to run these rural hospitals. We don’t have a hub-and-spoke model; we will keep these services local. We’ve shown that with Bucyrus, Ontario, and Galion. These hospitals are busy and they’re growing. We stimulate the local economy by keeping business here and all these professionals here.”

For information about services offered by Avita Health System, visit


By Andrew Carter

Galion Inquirer