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Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center on Tuesday announced the integration of all their cardiac services at the Gates Vascular Institute on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Kaleida Health’s and ECMC’s combined cardiac program accounts for 8,000 catheterization procedures and nearly 1,000 heart surgeries each year in Western New York, making it one of the busiest programs in the state, officials said.

ECMC, which operates the adult regional trauma center, will continue to provide cardiology services and diagnostic heart catheterization to patients, as well as thoracic procedures for trauma patients.

But all other heart-related procedures – including open-heart surgery, angioplasty and heart attack care – will now take place at the Institute, which opened last year. The change starts Friday.

Kaleida Health in 2012 closed Millard Fillmore Hospital on Gates Circle and consolidated its heart, stroke and vascular care services into the Institute, which was designed to encourage collaboration between specialists who deal with similar problems in different parts of the blood system, such as blockages.

The integration of Kaleida Health’s and ECMC’s cardiac services represents the third major initiative between the organizations to consolidate services under the Great Lakes Health System of Western New York. The first created the Regional Center of Excellence for Transplantation & Kidney Care on ECMC’s campus, and the second, which is under way, will create a combined Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Care.

In 2006, the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, also known as the Berger Commission, ordered the closure of Millard Fillmore as part of its attempt to restructure the state’s health system. The state commission also ordered ECMC, a public benefit corporation, and Kaleida Health, a private not-for-profit hospital system, to form a unified governance structure that included the University at Buffalo to consolidate some high-end services to improve quality and efficiency. Their agreement led to the formation of the parent organization known as Great Lakes Health.

“You now have a cardiac program where there is enough volume to ensure superior results. It gives us the ability to have a group of physicians who can cross-cover for each other and take on new innovative techniques. And it gives us economies of scale,” said James Kaskie, president and chief executive officer of Kaleida Health and Great Lakes Health.

ECMC made a $20 million investment in the Institute, but it took a long time to work out the details of its integration into the new facility.

For instance, physicians at ECMC wanted assurances on how emergency cardiac cases would be handled. It turns out such cases are rare, and a special response team was created to handle them. However, it was decided that basic cardiology care and diagnostic catheterizations should remain at ECMC – what officials are calling one program at two sites – because it would be inconvenient to transfer patients to the Institute for such common services.

“The goal at the Institute is to aggregate services in one place with the philosophy that the more you do, the more proficient you become,” said Dr. Brian Murray, chief medical officer at ECMC.

Western New York has high rates of heart disease and stroke, which are disorders caused by the same disease processes but in different areas of the body.

“The Gates Vascular Institute is the only center in the country where all of the physicians and scientists focused on vascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke work side by side because of the unique building design,” Dr. L. Nelson Hopkins, who was recently named president of the Institute, said in a statement.

“This partnership with ECMC gives us a chance to better serve our community in this new, exciting and award-winning facility.”

email: hdavis@buffnews.com