Special Report: The Heart of the Matter

About the Cardiac Sciences Program

Established in 2004, the Winnipeg Health Region's Cardiac Sciences Program integrates cardiac surgery, cardiology, cardiac anesthesia, cardiac intensive care and cardiac rehabilitation resources under one umbrella to improve the co-ordination and delivery of cardiac services to the people of Manitoba. Most services are carried out on the St. Boniface Hospital campus. Select cardiology services continue to be available at Health Sciences Centre and other Winnipeg-based community hospitals. Heart trauma cases are also handled at Health Sciences Centre. In addition, the Cardiac Sciences Program supports the development of research into the prevention, care and treatment of heart problems.

Manitoba Health is spending $40.3 million to make St. Boniface Hospital a Centre of Excellence for Heart Surgery and Cardiac Care. When complete, the centre will occupy nearly 41,000 square feet of new and renovated space, with a focus on more private rooms for patients, natural light, private bathing facilities, more room for visitors and other patient comforts. The expansion, which includes the development of new space in the Asper Centre to be completed next year, will increase the number of cardiac beds by 15 and include an expanded 32-bed cardiac in-patient unit (a net increase of four beds). A dedicated 15-bed cardiac intensive-care unit (a net increase of five beds), a new chest-pain evaluation unit and the development of a satellite pharmacy department are also part of the project.

Facts & Figures

Recruitment: The Cardiac Sciences Program has added 25 physician specialists in four years, in addition to a number of cardiac critical care nurses. These human resources are needed to meet increasing cardiac patient volumes. About 50,754 patient contacts are made through the program annually, and that number could rise by 10 per cent. Projected patient volumes can fluctuate depending on the area. For example, an additional 3,477 patients were assisted last year for cardiac inpatient activity and procedures, a 14.8 per cent increase.

The adoption of new approaches to care, such as the "fast-track model," has improved access to services and enhanced patient outcomes. Specifically, the program has:

  • Distinguished itself as a national leader in inpatient length of stay. Program benchmarks are below national rates. Average acute length of stay for typical post-operative cardiac surgery inpatients has decreased by about one full day since 2007. This performance is 11.5 per cent better than the Canadian average and has exceeded national standards for three years in a row. For cardiology inpatients, typical length of stay performance is 22 per cent better than the Canadian average and has exceeded national standards for four consecutive years.
  • Reduced mortality rates for patients experiencing acute ST elevation myocardial infarction (heart attack) to four per cent in 2009 from 20 per cent in 2005.
  • Improved wait times for cardiac surgery patients. Over the last two years, the median wait time has never exceeded the established benchmark range in any given month. In those infrequent instances where the waitlist benchmark is exceeded, patients are given immediate priority and undergo cardiac surgery within one week.

A year in the Cardiac Sciences Program

Here is a statistical overview of some of the activites within the Cardiac Sciences Program for 2009/10

1,276 Cardiac surgery operating room visits
2,136 Cardiology/coronary care unit and cardiac surgery admissions
6,988 Cardiac catheterization exams
15,828 Echocardiography exams
218 Defibrillator implants
806 Pacemaker implants
257 Electrophysiology cases
23,245 Cardiac outpatient clinic visits
50,754 Total patient visits


About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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