ELYRIA — The integration of EMH Healthcare and University Hospitals took place less than two months ago, but the merged medical institution is already producing firsts.
Tuesday, led by cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Carlos Garcia, the first open heart surgery was performed at the UH Elyria Medical Center. The procedure was observed by Dr. Soon Park, UH’s chief of cardiac surgery, who came to Cleveland in the late fall from the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Don Sheldon, president of the UH Elyria Medical Center, said the surgery is not the first time bypass surgery was performed in Elyria. For years, EMH and Cleveland Clinic had a strong affiliation for cardiac care. But now that University Hospitals and EMH are operating as one, the surgery represents the fruits of that union.
“It’s a real-life example of how we want to make things happen,” said UH CEO Thomas Zenty III.
If the doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers in Elyria wondered how their small hospital could benefit from merging with a powerhouse like UH, those questions were answered in a presentation Wednesday in the auditorium of the Gates Medical Center.
Zenty likened the integration to approaching a new starting line, not reaching a finish line.
“We will continue with the goal of bringing as much quality care as close to the communities we serve as we can,” he said.
Sheldon said the open-heart patient is recovering nicely and three more surgeries in Elyria are scheduled for the near future.
“This is a very positive turnaround for heart care in Elyria,” Sheldon said. “Dr. Park is a world-renowned physician who specializes in heart transplants and heart assist devices. Our physicians will have access to that expertise as well as all other advanced protocols at UH.”
The entire UH system had more than $3.5 billion in revenue last year. Further encroaching into the west side of Cuyahoga County and beyond has been on the entity’s radar for years, but expansion has been all about finding the right partner.
Elyria’s hospital is that partner.
Wednesday’s meeting was also highlighted by an additional patient success story.
On April 18, 2012, Dan Smith of Sheffield Lake, a father of three and husband of 41 years, collapsed at the Avon Fitness Center. He was on the elliptical machine when he lost focus and his legs buckled beneath him.
He was rushed to the Avon Emergency Room next door, and flown almost immediately to the UH main campus. There, doctors inserted a catheter into his brain to remove a clot.
Smith, a retired former chief of operations for the Avon Lake Wastewater Plant, said he credits his full recovery to the teams at both EMH and UH.
Hospital leaders say his success story took place months before the integration was announced, but it is a clear sign the partnership has been in the works for much longer.