Cottage has fulfilled specific standards, including having the required equipment and staff to provide rapid intervention and care, and has created procedures and quality improvement processes to earn the designation.
Marian Medical Center also has been given this designation to serve the northern Santa Barbara County area.
The goal of the new Comprehensive Cardiac Care System is to open closed coronary heart arteries within 90 minutes of the first medical contact.
Before this system was created, paramedics would transport heart attack patients to the nearest hospital. This would lead to delay if the patient had to be transferred to a facility that provided STEMI treatment. The time lost would lead to more heart damage.
Now, paramedics can perform an EKG when they arrive at the patient's side, and if it is a serious heart attack, the patient is taken directly to a STEMI Receiving Center.
"We are definitely seeing decreased times from first medical contact to artery opening as a direct result of this new county heart attack program," Dr. Watson said.
Dr. Joseph Aragon, medical director of Cottage's structural heart disease program, adds that even heart attack sufferers from the Santa Ynez Valley have been able to begin treatment at SBCH in under 60 minutes when triaged by ambulance.
"EKGs are read in the field, so when patients arrive at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital the cath lab team is here and ready to get the artery open to relieve symptoms," Dr. Aragon explained.
"This new system makes it possible to transport patients really fast to where they need to be," he added. "They come in here early enough and we can get the clot out before it causes more damage."
BY MARIA ZATE / PHOTO BY GLENN DUBOCK