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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Chest pain? The hospital has a bed

Stafford Hospital

Stafford Hospital has set aside five of its beds on the second floor for patients who are experiencing chest pain.

The beds are part of a new  chest pain observation area that opened last week. The new unit is modeled after a similar 32-bed unit that opened last year at Mary Washington Hospital.

Both units were founded on the belief that patients with chest pain do better when they are grouped together in the same unit. “The patient gets better care because they get a faster answer to the question, ‘Is this a heart attack?’ ” said Lisa Hawksworth, director of cardiovascular services for Mary Washington Healthcare.

Chest pain is a common complaint among patients who show up in the emergency room. ER workers usually do a set of tests, including EKG, blood test and X-ray, to determine the cause of the patient’s discomfort.

If a heart attack is identified, the patient is transferred to Mary Washington Hospital. Stafford has a cardiac catheterization lab, but it does not do interventional work. Stafford officials hope to add that service, at least for scheduled angioplasties, this summer. 

The observation beds are for the other patients, those for whom it’s not clear why they’re in pain. They will spend 12 to 24 hours in the unit undergoing additional tests, said Debra Marinari, director of nursing at Stafford.

“They’re here because the doctor doesn’t feel like it’s safe to let them go,” Marinari said. “They had these symptoms, and we’re trying to figure out why, to rule something out or in.”

Stafford’s unit has been busy with patients from day-one. Mary Washington’s unit also has been busy.

“A huge portion of our patients come in for chest pain,” Hawksworth said.

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