South L.A. Residents to Receive Life Saving Care Faster

When someone is having a heart attack, time is of the essence; minutes after it stops receiving blood, the heart muscle begins to die causing permanent damage. Eventually, the heart will simply stop. In South Los Angeles, however, the nearest available treatment was more than 10 miles away – and many minutes away to hospitals around the county as far as Torrance or downtown Los Angeles.

No longer.

St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood is now a certified ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (known as STEMI) Center, offering trained cardiologists and immediate treatment for anyone suffering a heart attack.  There are now 34 such centers in LA County, with St. Francis and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center as the other such locations in the Second District.  The new center is particularly important for Los Angeles County, considering that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for residents–with blacks and Latinos suffering the highest rates among all other ethnic groups.

The Catheterization Lab where patients are taken to have any angioplasty procedures and stents placed.

“The heart is a muscle like the brain,” said Adam Garcia, a cardiovascular and radiology technician at St. Francis. “If it doesn’t get fed, it won’t do well. And so that is why we have to take care of the problem as fast as possible.”

Within minutes at St. Francis, trained staff can stabilize a patient, insert a stent in a blocked artery or perform surgery. The STEMI Center compliments The Heart Center at St. Francis Medical Center, which has a full-time staff of cardiologists, specialty trained nurses, surgeons and technicians who offer a full range of heart care services. Quick treatment can not only save lives, but also reduce the risk of long-term heart damage and prevent life-threatening complications.

“We needed to provide this care and so this is super exciting,” said Dr. Michael Stephen, Chief of Staff, St. Francis Medical Center.

Added Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who attended the launch of the new center: “The residents of South Los Angeles deserve access to high-quality services in their community and the opening of this new receiving center does just that.  Lives will be improved and even saved because of what is happening today.”