Their hearts a-thumpin' at Frankford Hospital




by William Kenny
Northeast Times Staff Writer

The demise of the maternity unit at Frankford Hospital-Torresdale has given birth to what hospital officials tout as a unique cardiac facility that will help preserve countless lives.

Torresdale formally opened its $20 million Heart Center last Friday. The 30,000-square-foot unit includes state-of-the-art operating rooms, laboratories, intensive care rooms and pre-op/recovery rooms that hospital leaders hope will enable them to treat more heart patients locally and attract more highly skilled physicians.

"You think about quality of care, you think about service, you think about technology, and the only word to describe it is ‘unique,’" said Roy Powell, president and CEO of the non-profit Frankford Hospitals, which also manages Frankford and Bucks County campuses.

Frankford Hospitals are part of the Jefferson Health Care System.

Like other Philadelphia-area medical facilities have done, Frankford in 2006 shut down its obstetrics unit at Torresdale, a 290-bed facility. Officials cited a decline in patient demand and high malpractice insurance costs for the move.

According to Powell, the idea of a dedicated heart center has been two years in the making. The hospital funded the entire project, which included major internal renovations to the former maternity wing, through its own operations.

In developing the heart center, the hospital sought to give folks in the greater Northeast a local alternative for cardiac care that would be on par or better than care they might get at the big-name institutions elsewhere in the city.

Considering the population density and the age demographics of the area, hospital officials believe that the need for cardiac care will continue to grow.

"It was really an opportunity for us to meet the demand in the community and the demand that we anticipate is coming," Powell said. "We can now accommodate people in their own community who in many cases are going downtown."

The heart center centralizes and modernizes cardiac services that the hospital introduced less than a decade ago.

"This puts all services in one area of the hospital," Powell said.

There is no formal designation or requirements for a heart center, but hospital officials believe they have created a prototype facility.

"There are probably only a handful (like this)," Powell said. "I’m not aware of any in the city."

"This is very exciting to be around something so brand new and high technology," said Debbie Wiese, the nurse manager for intensive care at Torresdale. "We’ll set the standard."

According to the nurse supervisor, the heart center is designed to provide acute care patients with all diagnostic, surgical and recovery services throughout a typical four- to five-day stay.

The unit features 14 new pre-op and recovery beds, as well as seven "CCU" rooms for patients needing more intensive care. The critical-care-unit rooms are singles and feature home-like amenities such as sofa beds and high-definition televisions. They also are designed to control infection with elevated equipment and opaque glass doors instead of curtains.

The diagnostic facilities include three catheterization labs to allow physicians to examine the anatomy of the heart and two electrophysiology labs to allow them to evaluate the activity of the heart, Wiese said. Some testing can last eight hours, so the labs are also designed with patient comfort in mind.

The two cardiothoracic operating rooms are equipped with the latest surgical and imaging technology. Professionals and family of the patient can view live video feeds of surgeries in the center’s conference room.

New offices and storage rooms in the center are a convenience to attending physicians and staff. Currently, there are about 30 cardiologists on staff.

"We think we can accommodate more (patients). Our only limitation is our ability to attract and keep more cardiologists," Powell said.

Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or bkenny@phillynews.com