BLOOM: Allow cardiac surgery at Toms River hospital

Stephanie Bloom | Asbury Park Press

Imagine finding yourself in an emergency department and learning that you need cardiac surgery right away. Then you learn that, because of a state rule, you cannot get the procedure immediately but must instead be transferred to another hospital. Then you are forced to wait. And wait. And after days of waiting, you are transported by ambulance or helicopter to another hospital many miles away.

In addition to concern for yourself, your thoughts now turn to your spouse. How will she get to the next hospital? She is a senior citizen and only drives locally, and your children don’t live nearby. You need your wife by your side as much as you need the surgery.

You don’t deserve the added stress brought on by the danger of doing the procedure miles and miles away.

As the president and chief executive officer of Community Medical Center, I speak with patients, family members and their physicians about people like this every day. It’s hard to explain to them why scenarios like these are a reality and why we still don’t have cardiac surgery at Community Medical Center.

Ocean County is the largest county in New Jersey without cardiac surgery services and has the highest concentration of elderly in the state, a population that is disproportionately affected by heart disease.

Seniors represent more than 20 percent of our residents, and yet they’re forced to travel many miles away to a different county to receive treatment.

Ocean County is second only to Bergen County in terms of total senior population, yet Bergen County has three cardiac surgery programs and Ocean County has none.

At Community, we are facing a patient population that is getting older and sicker, making access to cardiac surgery services even more vital. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and in New Jersey. In Ocean County, more residents die from heart disease than residents of any other county in New Jersey.

This is not simply a matter of convenience; this is a matter of need. Providing cardiac surgery at Community will increase access to cardiac care for all Ocean County residents, particularly our senior population, a medically under-served community, here in Toms River.

At Community Medical Center, we treat more cardiac patients than any other hospital in New Jersey. We perform life-saving angioplasties, extensive diagnostic cardiac testing and procedures, and provide a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program for patients to regain quality of life after cardiac surgery.

We have the most cardiologists in Ocean County, not to mention the finest cardiologists in the county. Yet when our patients, many of them frail and elderly, require cardiac surgery, we are forced to transfer them out of Ocean County because we are not allowed to care for them at Community.

As the leading health care facility in Ocean County, Community Medical Center must provide cardiac surgery for our patients. Our patients should no longer have to be transferred out of Ocean County for surgery they could receive right here. Our patients are older and sicker than in years past, and it is critical for their health and well-being to remain in Ocean County to be treated, with their family and loved ones close by.

Cardiac surgery services at Community Medical Center are in the best interests of our patients, their family members and the community at large. These services will support our aging senior population, increase access to health care services and promote and protect the public health of Ocean County residents.

The time is now to bring cardiac surgery to the people of Ocean County.

Stephanie L. Bloom is president and chief executive officer at Community Medical Center in Toms River.

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