BRADENTON — The sheer curtains and sconce lighting might confuse patients into thinking they are headed into a luxury hotel rather than a hospital.
But the new roomy, light-filled area is actually the Manatee Heart and Vascular Center, officially dedicated Wednesday at Manatee Memorial Hospital.
The center’s opening was a long time coming for cardiologist Dr. Alberto Montalvo, who has hoped for a new facility since he helped open the hospital’s first cardiac catheterization lab in 1987.
“We started it in the radiology department and we gradually grew but were confined in the small ground floor space at the old hospital,” Montalvo said. Because of cramped conditions, diagnostic services and treatment for cardiac and circulatory issues were spread throughout the hospital.
“We put up with that for a long time until the present administration made this happen,” Montalvo said as visitors and dignitaries prepared to tour the new 17,000-square-foot center Wednesday evening. The center houses four cardiac catheterization labs, a chest pain center, nuclear medicine labs, an inpatient unit with 12 beds and a conference room. Classrooms are ence room. Classrooms are hard-wired for live video and audio feeds from the labs for training sessions.
The heart and vascular center is a $10 million project, said Moody Chisholm, chief executive officer of Manatee Memorial Hospital.
“We are very proud to significantly expand our services and upgrade the facility’s equipment and service available to the community,” he said. “Manatee Memorial has been here more than 50 years, and it was time for an upgrade to our cardiac facility, since heart disease remains the No. 1 killer.”
Dr. Kenneth Zide, an electrophysiologist at Manatee Memorial, said advanced technology such as a 3D mapping system and ultrasound equipment will allow staff to better navigate the heart as they treat patients.
“This technology will allow us to know exactly where we are in the heart and move around in the heart while exposing patients to less ionizing radiation,” Zide said. “It’s really very satisfying to be able to employ all of my training using this new technology.”
Thirty physicians, including cardiologists, radiologists, vascular surgeons and cardiothoracic surgeons, will be based at the new center, which began treating patients in June.
Esther Baxendale of Lakewood Ranch calls herself the “poster girl” of the new cardiac facility. The 66-year-old was the first patient at the center when she had a cardiac ablation in June. The procedure places catheters in the heart, and energy delivered through the catheters neutralizes the cardiac cells that are causing an arrhythmia.
She had watched a friend have a cardiac procedure in the hospital’s old facility and, Baxendale said, “she got the best of care but not the best of surroundings.”
In the new center, Baxendale felt like she was in a “first-class hotel.”
Her physician, Dr. Jagan Akella, did a heart-mapping procedure prior to surgery. “Everything went so smoothly and so well,” she said of the 5 1/2-hour procedure. “I have never seen anything like it, there were monitors everywhere and all the specialists were there.”
Staff reporter Grace Gagliano contributed to this report.