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Hospitals lauded for heart attack treatment

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Both Joplin hospitals this week were recognized by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for their protocols and preparedness to deal with the most severe kinds of heart attacks.

Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital Joplin were both designated level one STEMI centers, which is the highest possible rating. STEMI stands for ST-elevation myocardial infarction, which is a heart attack in which one of the heart's main arteries is blocked.

The level one designation is awarded based on a certification process that examines a hospital's operations, protocols, history and efficiency in handling heart attack cases.

"This means that Freeman, working in tandem with the area's ambulance services, has passed very strict tests and met rigorous standards that are proven to improve care and outcomes for patients," said Paula Baker, president and CEO of Freeman, at a news conference held Tuesday at the hospital.

In a statement announcing the designation, William Craig, a cardiologist at Mercy Clinic Cardiology, said: “I am so proud to work with a team that is committed to meeting the needs of our most seriously ill patients and their families every day."

Robert Stauffer, a Freeman cardiologist, said the survival rates for people who have heart attacks have risen in the previous 40 to 50 years from roughly 60 to 70 percent to as high as 99 percent.

"It's really one of the great success stories in modern medicine," Stauffer said. "Right up there with the treatment for AIDS and a lot of other things is this ability we've had to really stop myocardial infarctions in their track."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent report, heart disease is the most common cause of death in both men and women in the United States. The same was true for the state of Missouri in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. More than 14,000 Missourians died of heart disease that year.

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