Heart conditions treated fast at wellness centre

Heart Function Clinic at Cranbrook Health Unit targets heart failure patients for rapid care.

People experiencing heart conditions have access to fast, targeted care through the Cranbrook Wellness Centre.

Located in the Health Unit, the Wellness Centre contains a Heart Function Clinic where two internists optimize the care of patients newly diagnosed with heart failure and patients who are not responding well to management by their family physician.

The clinic has been open since September 2011, and it is the domain of physicians Dr. Lori Wik and Dr. Errin Sawatsky.

“It’s a way to rapidly access the internal medicine physician for referral, but also to rapidly access radiology like echocardiograms, as well as to rapidly access the programs at the wellness centre,” said Dr. Sawatsky.

Through referral from family physicians, Drs. Sawatsky and Wik take on patients and coordinate their needs for rapid care. As well as radiology, that could include appointments with cholesterol specialists and dieticians, among other things.

“It’s a way to get people who might otherwise wait on a waiting list and potential deteriorate in the interval, to see us quicker and hopefully keep people out of the hospital,” said Dr. Sawatsky.

“Pretty much anything that belongs to the heart, we’ll see it, especially if it’s unstable in any way.”

Now Dr. Sawatsky is getting the word out about signs of heart failure: shortness of breath when exerting yourself, chest discomfort, swelling of the legs, palpitations, fainting or near fainting. Most of the time, you would see your family physician if you experience any of those symptoms, but if it comes on quickly, it’s time to go to the hospital.

“If it builds on itself, it’s probably a good thing for the GP and if it’s sudden, it’s probably a good thing for the emergency room,” said Dr. Sawatsky.

Some people are more at risk of developing heart conditions than others, she went on. Risk factors include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, previous heart trouble or strokes, and family history of strokes and heart issues.

If any of those risk factors apply to you, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise, and get to know your family physician.

“Everybody needs a good relationship with their family physician. Even if you feel healthy, you still need to go for an annual check-up. All of these risk factors tend to be silent,” said Dr. Sawatsky. “So it’s important to have all the screening tests done with your family doctor.”

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