Every day in New Zealand five people will suffer the most life-threatening form of heart attack and the time to treatment is crucial to survival.

St John, in collaboration with the South Island Cardiac Workstream and Southern District Health Board isincreasing the chance of survival with a nationwide rollout of life-saving treatment.

A STEMI (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction) occurs when there is a complete blockage of one of the heart’s major arteries. The sooner blood flow is restored to the heart, the lower the risk of death and the less damage to the heart muscle, reducing the risk of heart failure and other complications.

This new pathway enables paramedics to give a clot busting drug to patients in the community and then transport those patients to the most appropriate facility. Bypassing the local hospital reduces the time it takes to receive life-saving therapy.

With support from the Ministry of Health, the pathway is being gradually rolled out through the country, and on 22 August the Southern District Health Board became the most recent DHB to partner with St John to deliver this vital treatment.

The Southern DHB area encompasses Wanaka, Queenstown, Cromwell, Alexandra, Dunedin, Invercargill, Gore and surrounds. Approximately 330 patients in this area suffer a STEMI each year but only one third of these will reach Dunedin Hospital within the 90 minutes needed for effective treatment.

St John Medical Director Tony Smith says the rollout is a great step forward for New Zealand.

“I’m proud of the way all the clinicians have worked together collaboratively to break down barriers to improving patient care. This is going to directly save lives and ensure that more New Zealanders will return home to their families”.

Southern DHB Primary and Community Medical Director Hywel Lloyd says the pathway will speed up and streamline heart attack response and treatment.

“We’re thrilled to be following the success of the Nelson-Marlborough region, improving access to specialist care for rural patients. Our rural communities are those that will benefit most.”

This pathway is an example of health services standing shoulder to shoulder to improve
access to emergency healthcare for those with the greatest need, particularly those
living in rural and remote areas.

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