Feb. 9, 2005 The Roy L. Schneider Hospital has no plans to build a cardiac care center, Rodney Miller, Schneider Hospital chief operating officer said Tuesday.
Miller's statement was in response to articles published in The Avis newspaper in the past week.
The first article indicated Schneider Hospital was "rumored" to be building a cardiac center that would compete with one planned for St. Croix's Juan F. Luis Hospital. And a Wednesday Avis article reported, "Calliste and other Luis Hospital officials said Friday in an interview with The Avis that a cath lab on St. Thomas would seriously jeopardize the financial viability of its $18.5 million cardiac care center slated to open in 2006."
To clear up any confusion surrounding the issue,Miller said Tuesday the hospital "has neither the plans nor the resources to open a cardiac care center in St. Thomas, and supports Juan Luis Hospital in their efforts to build such a center."
What the hospital is doing, Miller said, is purchasing equipment to treat heart patients in emergency situations where time is of the essence. "This is about saving the lives of patients on St. Thomas and St. John. It makes no sense for us not to be able to provide top-notch emergency service."
Dr. Roy D. Flood, Schneider Hospital's leading cardiologist, emphasized Miller's point. "One would prefer not to transfer a patient with a heart problem. We would be losing valuable time, and time is muscle. We would have a higher mortality rate."
A nationally known cardiologist, Flood came to Schneider Hospital last August from Washington Hospital Center in D.C., one of the top heart centers in the country.
Flood explained the hospital will be purchasing a new piece of equipment that will combine a camera and monitoring system, allowing doctors "to see a patient's arteries, and visualize any acute blockages that may have caused the patient to experience chest pain.
"Without being able to visualize the arteries and treat the problem quickly, we are offering sub-standard care. Cruise ship passengers are at risk, as well as our large transient population, and our year round residents. We want to do things the right way."
Flood and Miller made it clear the equipment is for emergency cases only. After-care and long-term patients will be directed to the Juan Luis Hospital.
Flood said the equipment will be kept in an area shared with the radiology department, not in a stand alone center. "It is not meant to compete with or surpass what's being done on St. Croix," he said.
Flood treats difficult St. Thomas cases once a week at the Juan Luis Hospital, he said, because they have equipment and facilities which the Schneider Hospital does not.
According to an American Hospital Association study noted by Miller, 77.8 percent of community hospitals in the country the same size as Schneider (200-299 beds) offer these diagnostic procedures.
"We hope to continue to collaborate with our friends and colleagues in St. Croix in their efforts to build a first-class cardiac care center, while they support us in building a world-class cancer institute," Miller said.
Gregory L. Davila, Juan Luis Hospital public relations officer, said Wednesday that Gregory J. Calliste, Luis Hospital's chief executive officer, is not making any further comments at this time. Calliste had spoken to The Avis last week. Davila said Calliste is hoping to meet with Schneider Hospital officers next week.
When the territory received $18.4 million in the tobacco fund settlement in 2001, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said that the territory's net share of the settlement, $18.4 million, would go to finance a number of projects at the territory's two hospitals and to fund the Health Department, which would receive 36 percent of the funds. Each hospital was to receive 32 percent, or about $5.9 million.
On St. Thomas, Miller said at a May 2002 Senate hearing, all the tobacco proceeds would cover the costs of developing new facilities and purchasing radiotherapy and cancer center equipment for Roy L. Schneider Hospital.
On St. Croix, Luis chief executive Thomas Robinson said that some of the hospital's tobacco money would go toward expenses other than the cardiac center. He said some of the money would be used to shore up the hospital's failing infrastructure. He said Luis Hospital would get a renovated emergency room and clinic, improvements to the cardiac care unit, a new warehouse, a water line and an air-conditioning system for the morgue.
Robinson was sharply criticized by senators at that meeting for not using the full amount for the cardiac center. (See "Tobacco Funds A-OK For Schneider, Not For Luis".)
The Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Care Center on St. Thomas anticipates opening in June. Davila said the Luis Hospital is currently launching an aggressive fund-raising campaign. It is a contest to find a logo for the cardiac center.
Meantime, Sen. Usie Richards, Senate Health, Hospital and Human Services chair, Monday wrote Turnbull and Health Commissioner Darlene Carty requesting a copy of a Certificate of Need for the purchase of Schneider's equipment. Richards had held a meeting with officers of both hospitals on Jan. 31. He said his attempt to remedy the concerns of the Luis Hospital have "not been adequately addressed."
Miller said Tuesday, "Obviously, the senator has his own prerogative and we understand that. We will just continue to try to provide the best care possible for the residents of St. Thomas and St. John. As long as we are doing that, my conscience is clear."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.