New initiative to get faster treatment to New Zealanders suffering heart attacks

A new initiative means people suffering heart attacks could receive lifesaving treatment quicker, benefitting about 350 people a year.

The collaborative effort from St John, the Cardiac Network and the Ministry of Health means more areas of New Zealand will be able to treat patients STEMI Patients. A STEMI (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction) occurs when there is a full blockage of one of the heart’s major arteries.

According to St John, every day in New Zealand, eight people suffer the most life-threatening form of heart attack, with only three of those surviving to immediate treatment.

The sooner blood flow is restored to the heart, the lower the risk of death and the less damage to the heart muscle, reducing the risk of heart failure and other complications, the organisation said in a statement.

New Zealand has nine hospitals able to treat STEMI patients effectively, all of which are in urban areas, and covering only 20 per cent of the geographical area, meaning as few as 30 per cent of New Zealand's population can reach effective treatment within the recommended 90-minute window.

The new initiative plans to increase the chance of survival with the launch of a new STEMI pathway throughout the Whanganui and MidCentral DHBs.

The pathway enables paramedics to give a clot busting drug to patients experiencing a STEMI heart attack, and then transport those patients to the most appropriate hospital, reducing the time it takes to receive lifesaving therapy.

St John expects about 350 patients each year could benefit from the pathway. It would result in "long-term survival and a reduced burden on the New Zealand health system, bringing New Zealand in line with other countries with advanced health systems", it said in a statement.

St John Medical Director Tony Smith said the initiative was "a great step forward for New Zealand".

"I'm proud of the way all the clinicians have worked together collaboratively, to break down barriers to improving patient care. This is going to directly save lives and ensure that more New Zealanders will return home to their families."

MidCentral DHB General Manager, Strategy, Planning and Performance, Craig Johnston said the ability to have STEMI patients assessed in the community by St John paramedics would also decrease transfer waiting times to Wellington Hospital, preserve cardiac function and improve outcomes for patients across the region.

Heart attack. (File photo) Source: