Presbyterian Rust Medical Center recently unveiled its newly expanded 24/7 Catheterization Lab, making it the fourth hospital in the metro area to offer this critical cardiac care service and the only one in Rio Rancho.

“We’re excited about it. Our Presbyterian Heart group has done a lot of work initiating it,” Dr. Christopher Loucks said. “We’ve always had cardiac care at Rust Medical Center, and the ability to perform interventions started with a specialty team. What their team has done has expanded the hours of access to the cardiovascular lab, allowing us 24/7 capability to treat patients presenting with acute coronary syndrome, such as a heart attack.”

The expansion comes after careful consideration of the community’s needs.

“We used to have the capability, primarily during weekdays and business hours,” Loucks said. “After hours and on weekends, if someone came in meeting the criteria for an acute heart attack, we would provide the initial diagnosis, management and stabilization. However, the patient would often be transferred to Presbyterian Hospital (in Albuquerque) for further treatment.”

The extended hours of the Catheterization Lab aim to reduce response times during cardiac emergencies, providing timely interventions that can significantly improve patient outcomes. The move addresses the previous necessity of transferring patients to other facilities during non-business hours.

“We were sending a lot of people back to Albuquerque more than we would have liked,” Loucks said. “Even EMS crews were avoiding this area, knowing they would need to go downtown. Now, with 24/7 access, we can offer immediate care right here at Rust Medical Center.”

The expansion addresses a critical need in the region’s health care infrastructure. With RMC now offering 24/7 cath lab services, patients in Rio Rancho, Sandoval County, Northwest Albuquerque and surrounding areas have improved access to life-saving cardiac care.

Dr. Aamer Rehman said the projected and continuing growth of Rio Rancho necessitated a need for better cardiac care in the City of Vision.

“It’s a huge improvement and expansion in access to care for those patients,” Rehman said. “This is a valuable service that has been made available to the public of Rio Rancho.”

As of November 2023, the 24/7 Catheterization Lab at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center has been fully operational. The hospital encourages residents to be aware of the expanded services and seek immediate medical attention in case of any cardiac concerns.

The Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care team aims to raise awareness of the expanded services, especially among those at higher risk for heart issues. They emphasize the importance of recognizing symptoms of a heart attack and seeking timely medical assistance, ultimately saving more lives in the community.

“Out of 10 people that walk into any hospital, unfortunately three or four do not make it out alive of that hospital stay,” Rehman  said. “So, this is something critical. With this 24-hour lab, I think we can get to more people in a more timely fashion and save more lives.”