NEW hours could save lives at Bendigo Health's emergency cardiac-treatment facility, as doctors face a region with one of Victoria's highest rates of heart-attacks.
The Bendigo cardiac cath lab will begin 24-seven operating hours from this weekend, treating heart-attack and cardiac patients who would otherwise have been taken to Melbourne.
Bendigo Health staff say it will save patients waiting hours for treatment, risking their long term health.
The change has meant training an additional six heart specialist nurses.
Head of cardiology Voltaire Nadurata said the extended services would help patients across the entire Loddon-Mallee, which had one of the highest incidences of heart-attacks in Victoria.
Dr Nadurata said the hospital had already treated 260 patients this year to September 30, compared to 280 across all of 2019.
He said opening up the arteries within 60 minutes of reaching a hospital was the international gold-standard of heart-treatment.
Dr Nadurata said waiting for treatment could cause damage be as serious as the death of the heart muscle, affecting patients quality of life long term.
"This is a lifesaving procedure. If you have a heart attack every minute counts," he said.
"Every minute that passes that the artery is blocked, the heart muscle is dying. The idea is really to open that quickly ... in a very safe manner."
Dr Nadurata said about four or five people have heart attacks in the Loddon Mallee region each weekend.
He said previously it took at least three to four hours to get them to the hospital care they needed in Melbourne, by that time which the heart muscle could have already died.
Chair Bob Cameron said Bendigo Health was very fortunate to be able to provide the 24-seven cath lab service.
Mr Cameron said the hospital expected the number of people treated at cath labs to double next year from what it was in 2019.
He said the cath lab had grown from a three day, to a five day, to a five day after hours service, since it first opened in 2005.
"We're very fortunate to have a very large suite of cardiologists who do a fantastic job," Mr Cameron said.
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