WINCHESTER — To better accommodate a growing number of cardiovascular patients, a 66,000-square-foot addition to Winchester Medical Center’s Heart & Vascular Center will open for patients next month.

Valley Health is expanding heart and vascular services at Winchester Medical Center with the opening of a new four-story wing that will unite under one roof specialists and services for the prevention, early diagnosis and advanced treatment of cardiovascular disease.

The new wing adjoins the existing 22,000-square-foot Heart & Vascular Center, which opened in 2011 next to Medical Office Building 1 on the WMC campus. The expansion will give patients convenient access to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, Advanced Heart Failure Center, imaging and other services.

A dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the lobby of the Heart & Vascular Center, 1880 Amherst St. The ceremony will be followed by tours and light refreshments.

The new building gives more room for heart and vascular specialty services and includes new clinic and office space for more than 40 cardiovascular physicians and advanced practice clinicians (APCs) now in Medical Office Buildings I and II, as well as the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program. There will also be an outpatient laboratory for patient convenience.

Site work on the $21.8 million project began in March 2018 and construction is wrapping up. The building will have a phased opening for patients beginning March 2:

  • Winchester Cardiology and Vascular Medicine and Valley Health Lab Services will open March 2
  • Valley Health Cardiothoracic Surgeons, Advanced Valve & Aortic Center and Valley Health Vascular Surgeons will open to patients on March 9
  • Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Enhanced External Counter-pulsation Clinic (EECP) will open to patients on March 16.

Jeff Behneke, corporate director of Heart and Vascular Services for Valley Health, said the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and EECP clinic area will help patients who have had heart attacks start building their endurance and their cardiac functions again. He said it is a supportive environment where patients can exercise and “feel like they can return back to normal.”

Patrick Cook, clinical manager, noninvasive cardiovascular and nuclear medicine, said that in the cardiac rehab and EECP area, patients are paired with trainers who provide them education on better dietary and exercise habits and monitor them as they exercise.

“It will provide a much nicer space for patients who are recovering from open heart surgery or having a heart attack to get them rehabilitated,” Cook said. “The space that we have now is small, it doesn’t feel like a gym and, honestly, if you look around at this [new] space now, it’s just incredible. It’s going to provide newer equipment, more equipment so we can get more patients in here.”

Every practice in the new building can now accommodate 30% to 50% more patients. Winchester Cardiology & Vascular Medicine will have 60 exam rooms, as well as 14 diagnostic rooms (for echocardiograms, stress testing, etc.) Valley Health Cardiothoracic Surgeons has six exams rooms and VH Vascular Surgeons has 10 exam rooms, two procedure rooms and two ultrasound rooms.

Winchester Cardiology and Vascular Medicine is the largest occupant, with 15 physicians and 10 advanced practice clinicians (some nurse practitioners, some physician assistants). The practice has about 75,000 patient visits a year, according to Judy Bible, chief administrative officer for Winchester Cardiology and Vascular Medicine. The goal is to add two or three physicians per year over the next five years, said Dr. Trisha Nashed, president of Winchester Cardiology and Vascular Medicine.

“We’ve seen that growth over the last five years with increased retirees and aging populations,” Nashed said. “And so as we feature growth in the community, we are just trying to meet the community's needs.”

Valley Health Vascular Surgeons has three physicians and four physician assistants. Valley Health Cardiothoracic Surgery/Advanced Valve & Aortic Center will have three surgeons and seven advanced-practice clinicians.

According to Brian Luchetti, operations manager for Heart & Vascular Ambulatory Services, the hospital receives nearly 7,000 office visits per year for cardiothoracic surgery and vascular surgery.

James Sherwood, Valley Health’s vice president of operations and professional services, said the expansion will also incorporate new technology, including advanced MRI and CT scans. He said the care being provided is “fully coordinated” and often requires close communication between surgeons and cardiologists.

“At the end of the day the building is neat, but the care that is provided is even better,” Sherwood said.

The expansion will not just meet the heart and vascular needs of Winchester, but the broader region. According to Behneke, in 2019 almost 60% of WMC's heart and vascular patients came from outside Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties.

Grady W. (Skip) Philips III, senior vice president of Valley Health and president of Winchester, said the expansion is part of Valley Health’s continued progress in advancing heart and vascular services. He noted that in May of 2018, Valley Health entered into a formal agreement to partner with the area’s largest cardiology practice, Winchester Cardiology & Vascular Medicine to improve efficiency, quality and patient experience.

“We want to continue to grow access to services,” Philips said. “This building is a physical representation of the work that these guys have done through the practice.”

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

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