Increasing access: Saint Peter’s University Hospital approved to perform non-emergency angioplasties

N.J. recently passed law giving more hospitals ability to perform potentially life-saving surgery

In a move that will increase access to care — and the speed of care — for cardiac patients across the state, Saint Peter’s University Hospital became one of the first community hospitals in the state to receive permission from the New Jersey Department of Health to perform non-emergency angioplasties.

The decision, which was announced Wednesday, is the first since Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill in February that expanded access to angioplasties.

Saint Peter’s was one of a handful of hospitals in the state to be approved.

Saint Peter’s has been performing angioplasties for years, but only on an emergency basis. Before the bill was signed, patients in need of an angioplasty as a preventative measure — approximately one-third of all angioplasties — would have to be sent to a hospital that was licensed to perform cardiac surgery.

Now, patients at Saint Peter’s and other approved facilities can stay where they are and get the procedure, which involves inserting a stent to clear plaque-clogged arteries and restore the flow of blood to the heart.

Les Hirsch, the CEO of Saint Peter’s, said the hospital was thrilled to get the news — thanking Murphy, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) and state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge) for pushing the measure.

“This has been a longstanding issue in the state, one that never made sense,” he said. “The previous regulation allowed certain hospitals to do angioplasty in an emergency situation, but those same hospitals were not allowed to do it on an elective basis, even though studies had shown it was safe.

“Now, patients will get better care, and have access to care. They are now able, then, to have a procedure done when needed, and not have to be transferred to another hospital.”

Because of the law that took effect May 23, hospitals are allowed to apply for and provide elective angioplasty services through a licensing process rather than a certificate of need, the Department of Health said.

The law removes the requirement for an expedited review certificate of need for the licensure of full-service adult diagnostic cardiac catheterization facilities and primary angioplasty without on-site cardiac surgery backup.

While being allowed to do the procedure will be a revenue raiser for the hospital, Hersch said it was more about a continuity of care — one that could potentially save lives.

Hirsch said Saint Peter’s applied to be granted the ability soon after Murphy signed the bill.

“I’m very pleased for St. Peters, because I think, without a doubt, it’s just the right thing to do,” Hirsch said. “The efficacy of being able to perform elective angioplasty in qualified hospitals, such as Saint Peter’s and others, has been proven scientifically.

“I believe this elevates the level of care that we’re able to provide because we can do something that we otherwise weren’t allowed to do — even though we we’re very capable of doing it. We have broken through what was a political logjam for many years. The science was proven, but it took time for time for the state to catch up.”