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Helping hearts beat

WARREN — The physical move of St. Joseph Warren Hospital’s congestive heart failure clinic may have been just down the hall, but it’s progress that will enable staff there to give life-saving care to triple the number of patients.

At the end of 2021, the center was averaging about 60 visits per month. That has grown to more than 200, warranting the move that was done in one day to limit the clinic’s closure.

“We start seeing our patients directly out of the hospital,” said Laura Mancini, nurse practitioner and center manager. “We’ll see them within a week of discharge and then weekly for the first month because with heart failure, it’s very common to be readmitted to the hospital within a month. We want to keep our patients out of the hospital, we want to keep them healthy, so we see them frequently.”

On Tuesday, the spiritual care department blessed the new space, formally used for monoclonal infusion treatment to combat COVID-19.

Congestive heart failure is a condition that happens gradually over time where the heart muscle gets weak and can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to meet the body’s needs. As the heart strains to do its work, the heart muscles stretch and the chambers of the heart enlarge, further weakening the heart’s ability to perform.

Dr. Rahul Sinha, a cardiologist, attributed to the rise in visits to greater awareness and the center’s ability to deliver.

That includes, on the inpatient side, nurses starting education for heart failure while the person is still in the hospital and transitions to outpatient care, “so that we can make sure, soonly out of the hospital, they are on the correct medications, they are doing well and feeling well to try and prevent them from being rehospitalized,” Mancini said.

“It’s definitely a cross between inpatient and outpatient and making that transition smoothly,” she said.

Mercy Health offers congestive heart failure clinics at each of its three local hospitals, including St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital and St. Elizabeth Boardman Hospital.

Patients need an order from a provider to participate in the clinic, but once enrolled they will work with heart failure nurses who assess the patient and can provide IV diuretics as an outpatient service to help avoid the emergency room.

During the clinic visit staff will also provide education tailored to each individual needs regarding the management of their chronic heart failure illness.

The patients also work with a multi-disciplinary team made up of a cardiologist, nephrologist and primary care providers to maximize results and develop appropriate medication regimens. A dietician is also available as is access to a community health workers to address any social determent needs, including insurance, medication cost, transportation and food insecurity.

Linda Dodge of Vienna said the care she receives at the center has helped her progress from a wheelchair to walking without help, except with a cane on uneven ground outside.

For Dodge, her kidneys started to fail and then her heart, she said. She’s been attending the clinic for about six months.

“It’s really good care, and the ladies here are so nice,” Dodge said.

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