Hospital celebrates heart anniversary

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

About 300 patients, friends and supporters of Shelby Baptist Medical Center’s open-heart surgery program showed up at the hospital in Alabaster on Friday to celebrate the program’s success and first anniversary.

And despite a recent setback from the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals that reversed the approval of the hospital to perform the surgery and

related services, hospital officials say the program will continue as it seeks a reconsideration from the court and pursues another certificate of need.

“We’re asking for reconsideration from the court of civil appeals,” said Ross Mitchell, vice president of marketing, planning and government relations for the Baptist Health System.

He also confirmed that the hospital will continue its open-heart surgery program during the appeal process.

“The heart program has not been interrupted. We will continue the appeal process and in the meantime have moved forward by filing for a new CON (certificate of need) in an effort to assure that the program is not interrupted,”

Mitchell said.

But the day belonged to celebration as doctors, patients and supporters of the open-heart program touted its success and its need.

“It has been a tremendous success,” said Dr. L. Shefton Riggins.

Riggins made history in August 2004 when he performed the first open-heart surgery at SBMC on a 48-year-old Calera man.

Riggins said since the program began, nearly 200 open-heart surgeries and more than 1,000 stint procedures (on 700 patients) have been performed at SBMC.

Riggins said it has been a tremendous benefit to be able to offer the services to the people of the area.

Scott Williams, interim president of Shelby Baptist, said he felt the open-heart program is critical not only for Shelby County but also for the entire area. He said the reason the hospital exists is to serve the community.

Wayne Pate, chairman of the Baptist Health System Board of Trustees, was among those on hand to mark the occasion.

Also present were Beth O’Brien, president and CEO of Baptist Health System,

State Rep. Jimmy Martin and Mike Hill and State Sen. Hank Erwin.

Pate noted that with traffic it took him an hour and a half to make it to the celebration and noted “anyone who doubts the need for heart surgery here at Shelby needs to ride with me through that traffic.”

He said the hospital will fulfill its vision to be a faith-based community outreach hospital.

Rep. Hill said it was a fight “tooth and nail” to expand the hospital. And with the open-heart program now in place, he said, “We are not going to give up.”

O’Brien appealed to friends and supporters of the heart program to write letters of support.

“We need to demonstrate to the broader community that Shelby County, like larger areas, needs a heart program,” she said.

Scattered among the crowd were open-heart surgery patients who have been successfully treated at SBMC.

Jerald Coffman had four bypasses in June of this year.

His wife Carolyn said, “It was 3 in the morning. We live in Pelham and it was close.”

Jerald said, “Dr. Riggins did my surgery and he was great.”

And Carolyn added that there was “very positive support from the staff.”

But Jerald pointed to another advantage of using SBMC.

“One thing I like about it … it was close to home. (Carolyn) could go home and take care of things and take care of me,” he said.

Carolyn also spoke of the benefit of the location of the hospital which eliminated a long drive.

Frank McClellan of Bibb County had open-heart surgery at the hospital seven weeks ago.

While his wife is coordinator of cardiac rehabilitation at the hospital, he said SBMC was the closest hospital to him and he was impressed with the caring and professional treatment he received.

Riverchase Middle School physical education teacher Roddie Stamps, an open-heart patient, agreed.

“I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” he said