Cardiac Campaign for Heart Rhythm

As the regional provider of advanced cardiac care, St. Mary’s General Hospital has a responsibility to actively diagnose and treat all conditions related to heart function.

For the past few years we have been laying the ground work to bring one more piece of cardiac care to the Region; a Heart Rhythm Program.

St. Mary’s is currently the only Cardiac Centre in the province without a fully functioning Heart Rhythm Program. This means patients who require heart rhythm treatment must travel outside of the region for care, where they will wait, on average, 100 days to receive treatment.

By adding this service to our already nationally recognized Cardiac Centre, we aim to cut wait times for Heart Rhythm patients in half; enhance the continuity of care for cardiac patients; reduce the stress and anxiety that travel has on patients and their families; and foster innovation within the program by attracting top ranked physicians and staff to the Region.

Most importantly though, bringing Heart Rhythm to St. Mary’s means our patients will have access to a full range of cardiac services, close to home, when they need them most.

What is Heart Rhythm?

Issues affecting the heart are often described in one of two ways: the plumbing or the electrical. Plumbing

issues are related to arteries and blood flow. A heart attack is considered a “plumbing issue” as it is caused by a blockage in the arteries, preventing the flow of blood. Electrical issues are related to the electrical current and rhythm of the heart. When a person experiences cardiac arrest, the electrical current that controls the timing and pace of the heart beat is disrupted, which stops the heart from pumping.

Heart Rhythm issues, often referred to as Arrhythmias, are not always life threatening. Many can be controlled by lifestyle changes such as diet and modified exercise. But for some, when left untreated, arrhythmias can be extremely dangerous and lead to loss of consciousness or even death.

Why is it needed?

Providing care in a system that is focused around the patient.

Patients diagnosed with heart rhythm issues are also often diagnosed with coronary artery disease, identifying a need to treat both the “electrical” and “plumbing” issues of the heart. Since people are rarely diagnosed with a heart rhythm issue on its own, arrhythmia patients within our Region are currently treated at St. Mary’s for any issues related to the cardiovascular system or “plumbing”, and are then referred outside of our Region for care related to Heart Rhythm.

This has resulted in disjointed care. Adding a full Heart Rhythm program to the existing services offered at St. Mary’s will ensure access to a full continuum of cardiac services for residents of Waterloo Region and beyond.

Current challenges – Closing the Gap

Our primary challenge continues to be funding for capital growth and equipment. Our region is expanding, our population is aging and we are continually asked to do more with less. While the Ministry of Health’s funding formula for capital projects has changed over the past 10 years, from 70% to 90% , its support of equipment for new or expanded programs has not.

Communities are still asked to fund 10% of capital costs as well as 100% of costs associated with funding new and replacement equipment.

For the Heart Rhythm Program, this means a total overall community investment of $15 million.

For many communities this is an insurmountable task that limits growth and the delivery of healthcare. For the SMRCCC and the residents of Waterloo Region it’s not insurmountable; simply taking longer than anticipated.

To date just under $13 million has been raised in support of this vital, lifesaving program. With facilities slated to open later this year, we are closer now than ever to providing our community with access to the specialized care they need and deserve, close to home.

The Foundation relies on the community’s generosity to make these programs possible.  To learn more about how you can help save lives, please contact Susan Dusick at St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation at 519-749-6797 or