The Simcoe Muskoka Code STEMI Protocol is now available to heart attack patients in Muskoka.

Starting today, residents with heart attack symptoms who reach out to the South Muskoka Memorial of Huntsville District Memorial Hospitals, or call 911, may be taken to the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie for treatment. Chief of Paramedic Services and Emergency Planning for the District of Muskoka Jeff McWilliam explains the “gold standard” of care is achieved when a patient gets advanced cardiac care less than two hours after paramedics arrive.

The program was established in November 2020 in Simcoe County. RVH has been delivering advanced cardiac care since January 2018 when they began a partnership with the Southlake Regional Health Centre (SRHC) in Newmarket, Ontario for a regional heart program. Over 7,000 heart procedures have been done in that time.

“What we now have is the ability to transport someone who is experiencing what is called an ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI),” McWilliam explains. “It’s a life-threatening time-sensitive cardiac heart emergency.”

“Having these advanced cardiac services and a highly-skilled team at RVH’s Cardiac Intervention Unit (CIU), means that now the majority of patients in Simcoe and Muskoka will be able to get lifesaving intervention within 120 minutes of a heart attack,” Medical Director of RVH’s CIU Dr. Tony Lee. “Extending this new cardiac protocol to Muskoka would not be possible without the full collaboration of all our health partners in this region.”

McWilliam says around eight percent of people experiencing chest pain are having a STEMI. In the last few years, he adds that local paramedics have dealt with “well over” 350 calls related to that.

In the past, people needing care have been taken as far as the SRHC. “We’ve all heard over the years that time is muscle, so the sooner we can get the right patients that are having the right signs and symptoms to the right place for the right treatment, it usually results in positive outcomes,” McWilliam says. With this program coming to our region, care can be given to you at your bedside before a decision is made on whether you will be taken to the local hospital, or to RVH.

If you’re experiencing any kind of chest pain, or even slight discomfort, he recommends you call 911. Other symptoms include sweating, jaw or neck pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or nausea. 

“The closer we can be to a cardiac care centre like RVH the better for our patients,” McWilliam says.