Friday, February 6, 2004

Ohio State partners with Middletown for heart care

Health watch

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Competition over cardiac care in Greater Cincinnati - especially in the region's northern suburbs - is getting more intense.

Ohio State University has agreed to a cardiology partnership with the Middletown Regional Health System; a move that gives the Columbus-based medical center its bridgehead in a Cincinnati-dominated market.

Middletown Regional plans to pump up to $250 million into rebuilding itself as a bigger, more sophisticated medical center to serve rapidly growing parts of Butler and Warren counties. The new campus would be built by 2008. But some changes are starting now.

The cardiology agreement with Ohio State is one of several partnerships that Middletown Regional plans to launch. Others would expand cancer care, trauma care and outpatient surgery, said Larry James, vice president and chief marketing officer.

The cardiology plan calls for Ohio State to recruit a medical director and up to three specialists to manage Middletown's program, which ultimately could include open heart surgery, expanded cardiac catheterization procedures and access to hot new medications via Ohio State's research protocols.

"We want to be on the cutting edge. That's what this campus is all about," James said.

Although the deal isn't exclusive, it signals that heart programs in Cincinnati have been unable to forge closer relationships with Middletown Regional.

Despite their nonprofit status, Cincinnati hospitals have been battling for years in the high-profile field of cardiac services. And lately, hospitals also have been fighting a doctor group that proposes building a specialty heart hospital. One already exists in Dayton.

Yet much like St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Northern Kentucky, Middletown Regional has been quietly striving to maintain a degree of independence.

"We've had discussions with other more local programs. But Ohio State seemed to be the best fit for us," James said.

NUTTY ABOUT HEART HEALTH: With February being "American Heart Month" - Valentine's Day. Hearts. Get it? - the California Pistachio Commission decided to remind the nation of this statement issued last year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

"Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."

To share this bold revelation, the commission recently arranged to send little heart-shaped Valentine's Day boxes, each containing a 1-ounce bag of pistachios, to health reporters nationwide.

Now if I can just scrounge up another half-ounce of pistachios ...


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