Members of the surgical team, rear from left to right, Dr Allen James, Colin Rowlatt, Sharon Mowbray,
Dr Tony Mullens; front, left to right, Tracey Haswell, Sharon Scotman, Ray Swart, Leanne Molenaar
and Sue Keir
The Ramsay Way 2019 | 04 17
Cairns Private Hospital cares for almost
20,000 heart patients in 20 years
Cairns Private Hospital is celebrating 20 years of providing crucial cardiac
services to the community through its cardiac catheterisation laboratory.
Almost 20,000 patients have used the service since the lab was opened in September 1999,
after a campaign led by cardiologist, Dr Chin Lim, to bring more cardiac services to the region.
Dr Lim said: “It has been great to introduce the services to Cairns; previously it all had to be
done through Townsville or Brisbane.”
The lab opened with just two cardiologists, including Dr Lim and his colleague, Dr Joseph Ling; it is
now used by a team of cardiologists and vascular surgeons, who work in the lab five days a week.
Medical specialists can treat cardiac and vascular patients using minimally invasive techniques
and perform advanced procedures, including angiograms, stents, pacemakers and the
implantation of defibrillators.
Cardiologist, Dr Joseph Ling, said: “Even though it has been 20 years, fixing hearts never
gets old! We make a real difference, not only in terms of the new technology we bring to the
region, but also to the lives of our patients. Seeing them healthier and fitter following cardiac
intervention is very rewarding”.
During its 20-year lifespan, the lab has undergone some significant changes, including a
$2.1 million upgrade in 2018, which included the installation of GE Discovery IGS 730 hybrid.
The technology provides high quality imaging and robotic maneuverability, which can allow
procedures to be performed faster and more safely for patients.
Cairns Private Hospital CEO, Ben Tooth, said: “This state of the art equipment enables us to
deliver the most comprehensive, high quality cardiac and vascular services to not only our local
community but visiting population”.
Dr Lim was recently able to use the lab to unblock an artery of a tourist, who had suffered a
heart attack onboard a nearby cruise ship.
“It made a big difference. Having access to the right equipment and being treated locally when
time critical enabled her to continue with her travel plans”, Dr Lim said.
Current and past lab staff came together to mark the occasion with cake and “a trip down
memory lane” presentation by Dr Lim.
Lake Macquarie leading the way in
heart health for 25 years
The first private hospital to offer a full cardiothoracic surgery service between
Brisbane and Sydney is celebrating an impressive 25 year milestone.
Lake Macquarie Private Hospital has performed more than 8,000 cardiac procedures for
people in the Hunter region since opening its cardiac unit in 1994.
The hospital’s former Head of Cardiac Services and current assistant surgeon, Dr Alan Boyd,
was instrumental in setting up the service 25 years ago, after doing the same in the public
system at John Hunter Hospital two years earlier.
Dr Boyd said: “Lake Macquarie Private Hospital were unbelievably good in the way they
approached it. Without the willingness, drive and co-operation of the executives and the
Dr Michael Carlton, director of the intensive care unit at the time, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Three cardiothoracic surgeons currently operate at Lake Macquarie Private Hospital.
Dr Allen James, Dr Rosauro Mejia and Dr Taranpreet Singh join an esteemed line of surgeons
who have worked in the unit.
Dr James said: “A major strength of the service is the continuity and experience of the
surgical, nursing, perfusion and intensive care staff – many who have been working with the
unit since its inception.”
Lake Macquarie Private Hospital CEO, Leah Gabolinscy, said: “We are always focused on
achieving excellent outcomes and making our patients feel as comfortable as possible when
they come to us for their heart procedures. Having a great collaborative team of people
who provide our high quality cardiac service is one of the key reasons we are realising this
fantastic 25 year milestone.”
The hospital offers a full range of complex heart and lung procedures, including valve
replacements and repairs, chest corrective surgeries, and lung biopsies and removals.
The service is supported by a 24/7 emergency department, which allows the hospital to
effectively service regional New South Wales.
Greenslopes involved in Australian-first clinical
trial to reduce stroke
Greenslopes Private Hospital is part of a new international clinical trial exploring the potential benefits of an
implantable device for reducing stroke in eligible heart patients.
The OPTION clinical trial is designed to explore if an
implantable device – called the WATCHMAN FLX – is a
reasonable alternative to blood thinners when it comes
to closing the left atrial appendage of the heart. This trial
relates specifically to cardiac patients with non-valvular atrial
fibrillation who undergo an ablation procedure.
Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm which causes the
upper chambers of the heart to quiver, leading to poor blood
flow, shortness of breath and fatigue. An ablation can help
decrease this burden through scarring the tissue around the
veins in the upper left heart chamber. However, there is still
a risk of stroke following an ablation.
One option to address the need for stroke reduction in
atrial fibrillation patients is blood thinners. The second option
is the insertion of left atrial appendage closure implants such
as the WATCHMAN.
Greenslopes Private Hospital cardiologist and cardiac
electrophysiologist, Dr Karen Phillips, explained the device is
essentially “a tiny plug that sits inside the heart that seals off
where the blood clots potentially form.”
The implantation of this device is designed to prevent harmful
blood clots from escaping, travelling through an artery to the
brain and causing a stroke.
In Australia, the main treatment option for patients with the
heart rhythm condition has been long-term, daily use of blood
thinning medication; the WATCHMAN FLX device is currently
only available to patients who cannot take the medication.
“The blood thinning treatment is life-long; unfortunately the risk
of bleeding gets higher as the patients age,” Dr Phillips said.
Approximately two per cent of patients who take blood
thinners will have significant bleeding complications each year.
The OPTION trial will allow specialists to fit a newly developed
model of the WATCHMAN FLX in patients undergoing an
“At the moment the treatment is reactive – you wait until
someone bleeds from the blood thinning medication before
offering the alternative treatment. This trial gives us an
opportunity to perform both procedures at once,”
Dr Phillips said.
Greenslopes is one of only two Australian hospitals
participating in the global trial, which is expected to recruit
Half will be asked to take blood thinners, while the other half
will receive a WATCHMAN FLX implant.
“We’re the first in the southern hemisphere using this particular
atrial fibrillation device, which is a big feather in our cap,”
Dr Phillips said.
The hospital has started to enrol patients in the trial, which will
run over 18 months.
Ramsay Cairns CEO Ben Tooth with Cardiologists Chin Lim, Ram Saireddy, Josh Tsai, Tim Carruthers,
Sam Hillier, Greg Starmer and Anthony Brazzale along with current and past cath lab staff
Tracey Moylan, Dr Karen Phillips, Kriss Carpenter, Michael King,
Elisha Mullins and Justin Hatch