Doctor KGH

Interior Health recruited Victoria cardiologist Dr. Chris Lane to help plan, build and operate an electrophysiology lab at Kelowna General Hospital.

Dr. Chris Lane says he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help build something from scratch.

It’s why he’s agreed to become the Central Okanagan’s first full-time electrophysiologist next year in a new, state-of-the-art EP lab expected to open by June 2020.

“That’s a very exciting part of the opportunity here, is how the program is going to develop and shape,” Lane told The Okanagan Weekend in an interview.

Interior Health has recruited the Victoria cardiologist to help plan, build and operate an electrophysiology lab at Kelowna General Hospital.

The EP lab is the final piece of the puzzle for the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre, and when completed will make KGH one of North America’s finest hospitals for cardiac care.

Lane, who works in Victoria and travels to Kelowna to see patients monthly now, is also trying to recruit a second EP doc to help him manage the patient load. KGH is considered a tertiary, regional hospital and it serves one million people in B.C.’s Interior.

The surgical centre has operating rooms equipped for open-heart surgery, for example, but not complex EP services.

About 450 patients per year require the specialized equipment and expertise that comes with electrophysiology, a branch of medicine that helps patients with arrhythmias, or abnormal heartbeats.

Today, patients from the B.C. Interior must travel to Vancouver or Victoria to undergo procedures to help correct an arrhythmia. The waiting time can be as long as eight weeks.

An EP lab in Kelowna would not only reduce that wait time for life-saving procedures, but also eliminate the stress of having to travel.

It’s a vital service because arrhythmia is expected to be the leading cause of death in North America by 2020, health experts say.

“I’m actually surprised they’re not already, to be frank with you,” Lane said.

Hundreds of thousands of people in North America suffer cardiac arrests each year, Lane said.

While heart attacks are caused by blockages in the heart’s “plumbing” system, and can be prevented or mitigated, cardiac arrest is difficult to predict and many patients don’t know they have an irregular heart rhythm until they’re in trouble.

Of course, building and staffing a lab — with EP techs, nurse practitioners and nurses alongside the doctors — won’t come cheaply.

That’s where Doug Rankmore and the KGH Foundation enter the picture.

The foundation has committed to raising $7 million for the space and equipment. It needs to raise another $1.8 million over the next 18 months for IH to meet its target date and open the lab.

“It’s a pretty critical element for a hospital that has become a health sciences research centre,” Rankmore said. “We’d like to get this funded as soon as possible. Obviously, every day that it’s not here, people are sitting on ward here waiting for travel or waiting for a bed to come available in Victoria or the Lower Mainland.

“We still have some distance to go.”

KGH can help treat EP patients now, but only from a more basic level. The EP lab would give patients

access to equipment and expertise on a world-class level.

If a patient arrives with an arrhythmia, doctors in an EP lab could research what may be causing the problem. They can use imaging equipment to help target offending nerve pathways, for example, and treat them with heat or freezing to cure the arrhythmia. In more complex cases, an EP lab allows the implantation of cardio defibrillator, essentially a computer in your chest with leads to your heart.

A defibrillator can read rhythms and apply shocks to re-regulate your heart.

It’s an intense process, but one that’s becoming more pressing with an aging population in a province that’s growing by thousands every year.

“Interior Health’s cardiac services last year were ranked No. 1 in the country, the best outcomes in the country according to their benchmarking services,” Rankmore said. “That’s just astounding for a city of this size.”

Lane said he’s been impressed by what’s happening in Kelowna. It’s another reason he and his wife are moving to Kelowna (he also has two sisters here).

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “I think they’ve built a world-class facility that’s providing the standard of care equivalent to anywhere else you could get it in North America, to be honest with you.”

To learn more about the EP lab and KGH Foundation’s campaign, visit kghfoundation.com.