CCMC plans heart disease clinic

PARKERSBURG – A clinic will be set up at Camden Clark Medical Center to assist people with chronic heart disease.

The Camden Clark Medical Center’s Chronic Heart Failure Clinic, which is expected to open by mid-April, will initially be in the professional office building on the St. Joseph’s Campus to keep it close to the medical center’s cardiac services, said David McClure, vice president of operations for the Camden Clark Medical Center.

The CHF clinic will be an education and treatment program designed to control the patient’s disease, hospital officials said. The clinic will offer testing capabilities that include EKG (echocardiograms), stress testing and lab testing.

“When we think of heart disease, we usually think of a heart attack or heart surgery,” McClure said. “We don’t always think of the chronic diseases of the heart and heart failure is one of those chronic diseases.”

Chronic heart failure occurs when the heart is losing its ability to pump enough blood through the body and the blood moves through the body at a slower rate, increasing the pressure on the heart, officials said.

When this happens, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs.

People could have shortness of breath and being tired as the heart works harder to pump blood properly. Muscles and other tissues receive less oxygen and nutrition.

Swelling of the feet, ankles, legs and, occasionally, the abdomen is another symptom of congestive heart failure.

“As we looked at chronic diseases, we began to look at heart disease and heart failure,” McClure said. “What we determined was if we don’t provide some support to our patients outside of the hospital, they will continue to have exasperations of the disease.”

About six months ago, the hospital began looking into a program dealing with the continuation of care for people who come in with chronic heart failure issues, are stabilized and discharged with a plan of action.

Traditionally, these patients worked with a nurse practitioner to establish a plan with the medications, diet and exercise in controlling their disease.

“What we found was the one missing piece we had when patients came into the hospital with an acute exasperation, we would get them better and send them home, but it usually took a week or so for them to get back and see their doctor,” McClure said.

“What we have developed with the Heart Failure Clinic is when the patient is discharged from the hospital, they are made an appointment to see someone in the clinic within three days so they will either be seen by a doctor or a nurse practitioner.

“What will happen is the education will be reinforced, make sure the patient is taking the right medications, they are following the right diet and exercise program to control their disease. They will continue to be followed in the clinic as well as with their primary care physician. The clinic gives the patient more specialized time, education and intervention to keep their disease under control,” McClure said.

The clinic will manage patients when they slip off their diet and medications, McClure said.

“If a patient would start to gain weight or would start to get short of breath or would get some swelling or not understand their medications or their diet, they can always pick up the phone and call the clinic,” he said. “They can talk to someone, get information or visit to get some re-education and stabilization.

“That will help the patients not get to the point where they need to come to the emergency room or be admitted to the hospital again,” he said.

The clinic will be staffed by cardiologists and is expected to be open five days a week.

The medical center sees around 3,000 patients a year with heart failure as the primary diagnosis or secondary diagnosis.

“The clinic will reinforce the lifestyle changes and the appropriate diet, exercise and all the things the patients need to do to stabilize their heart and disease,” McClure said. “The clinic will be here to help patients stabilize their chronic disease.

“With heart failure, it is easy to tip over the edge to start to gain weight, to retain fluid or miss a couple days of medication. Our goal is to help the patient stabilize their disease so they can live a very healthy active lifestyle,” McClure said.