WVU Medicine believes no West Virginian should have to leave the state’s borders for world-class cardiovascular care. It’s why the organization founded its Heart and Vascular Institute at Morgantown’s Ruby Memorial Hospital, which quickly has grown into one of the nation’s best.
The institute has branched out, with one of those branches growing at WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital, now a full member of the WVU Health System and a crucial base for the institute’s mission.
“We will be really looking at Wheeling Hospital to be one of the key leadership hubs of the health system,”said Dr. Vinay Badhwar, executive chair of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute.
Wheeling Hospital is a site that can help take some of the load off of Ruby in terms of cardiovascular care. Then, Ruby can focus more on the most advanced and complex cardiovascular cases.
There already are examples of that, HVI vice-president Frank Briggs said. A patient in Morgantown needed a procedure done, but Ruby was dealing with a shortage of hospital beds. That patient was transferred to Wheeling Hospital for the procedure.
Most importantly, Briggs said, the patient’s cardiologist at Ruby was able to go to Wheeling Hospital with them for the procedure. That cardiologist has the most intimate knowledge of the patient’s situation, he added, so that doctor was the best one to work on the patient.
That’s a cornerstone of the institute model of medicine that Wheeling Hospital CEO Douglass Harrison passionately endorses and is trying to build at Wheeling Hospital and throughout WVU Medicine. In that model, doctors manage patients together, teaming up to devise the best method of care for each patient.
That teamwork also spans different hospitals, as doctors from both Wheeling and Ruby can come together to formulate the plan.
“That’s the teamwork approach that WVU HVI brings to the table,” Harrison said. “It is not a one-off individual approach to care. The thoracic team, the vascular team, the cardiac surgery team, the cardiologists all work together to look at each individual patient and each individual outcome and come together to make decisions on what’s the best avenue for care.”
Heading WVU HVI at Wheeling Hospital is Dr. Chris Allen, a cardiologist with more than two decades of experience who came to Wheeling Hospital as chief of cardiology following a stint at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He sees a special and important opportunity for Wheeling Hospital as a regional hub for the Heart and Vascular Institute.
“As a community hospital, there’s a kind of gentler society in the hospital,” he said. “You take care of your relatives. You take care of people you’ve grown up with and most people have some connection with the patients as they come through the hospital. What we are trying to put in place is keys to make sure our patients who come to the hospital get the level of care of going to any other major institution in the country.
The hospital continues to recruit from among the country’s top cardiovascular physicians. Offering that team-based concept of medicine and the quality of care that the Heart and Vascular Institute provides should be a game-changer for the hospital and the people it serves, Badhwar said.
He already is seeing the effects. Five years ago, when the HVI was getting started, it was tough for him to convince doctors to come to West Virginia to practice. Now top doctors are calling to see if there are positions available with WVU HVI. And patients often would be sent to other hospitals in other states for advanced cardiovascular care. Now, Badhwar said, that migration has reversed and people from other states are coming to West Virginia.
“There is no need for any patient currently – and I can say this with the utmost confidence – in the cardiovascular world or thoracic world to ever leave the state to access that care,” Badhwar said.