Funding debate aside, this is why we need a new heart hospital – The Sydney Morning Herald

Posted: August 7, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Current debate about the future of the Victorian Heart Hospital, which when completed will be Australia's first cardiac hospital,focuses on issues such as cost and contracts. And, in these tight economic times, it is right to ask these questions.

However, Australia's first dedicated specialist heart hospital will be so much more. Thehospital will be in the same league as some of the great cardiac hospitals, such as the Barts Heart Centre in London and the Montreal Heart Institute in Canada.

More Victorians, men and women, die from heart disease than any other cause. People are living longer long enough to have, and survive, heart attacksthat may become heart disease and heart failure further down the line.

In the catchment area that will feed into the Victorian Heart Hospital the population projections for people at risk of heart disease are even worse. Aboutone-quarter (or eight out of 31) of the metropolitan local government areas with above average heart attack rates fall into the catchment area of the new hospital. This is an area whose population needs a facility like this.

But the hospitalwill be so much more than a hospital for patients with cardiovascular disease and events. Much has been said about the dedicated areas for Monash University and Monash Health researchers devoted to cardiac research.

Having the researchers sitting in the midst of the clinicians and patients, and in many cases being situated within the hospital means the problems the scientists address are the ones that are identified by those at the coalface, the clinicians and health professionals.

One of the hospital'score research areas, for example, will be stem cell research. We have recruited some of the best stem cell scientists in the world. They will work with Monash University's Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute and heart hospital clinicians to develop cellular patches that can be created from a patient's own cells to replace the areas of the heart left dead by a heart attack. This damaged tissue, currently cannot be fixed, and often leads to heart failure, so the need for this sort of research is paramount.

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Monash Health has an outstanding international reputation for attracting clinical trials into new heart procedure techniques, with more than 30 trials currently being conducted. As an example, the international medical device makerMedtronicchose Monash Heart cardiologists to conduct the first trial of a new way to replace mitral valves in the hearts of patients whose health would not withstand traditional open-heart surgery. These trial patients have had their life saved by this device.

This is translational research at its best taking new discoveries and therapies and making sure they are safe in patients. These innovations then become, as fast as possible, treatments we can offer all Victorians. It is no surprise that many of Australia's largest medical device manufacturers and innovators are situated around Monash University and benefit from the strong biomedical focus the university offers.

Co-location of the Victorian Heart Hospital at the Monash University campus will strengthen the nexus between industry, biomedical research and clinical care, including clinical trials that will result in Victorians benefiting from the best advances in cardiac care.

The Victorian Heart Hospitalis a way for Victoria to future-proof its citizens against heart disease for the next five decades. It will be where we develop new technologies, devices and treatments that can be used to deal with the patients that come throughour doors.

There will be more non-surgical alternatives and prevention strategies developed and offered. We will provide a health and wellness department that assists patients in dealing with the depression that can follow cardiac surgery, as well as assisting patients in techniques that can help them lower their risk of further cardiac events.

The hospitalwill not only put Victoria on the world map, it will be a groundbreaking commitment to the health of Victorians.

Sarah Newton is deputy dean, external relations, Monash University's faculty of medicine, nursing and health sciences.

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Funding debate aside, this is why we need a new heart hospital - The Sydney Morning Herald

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