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First open-heart surgery performed at Kelowna General Hospital

It's official. Kelowna General Hospital is now the fifth medical centre in B.C. providing full cardiac care services, including open-heart surgery.

Despite the fact construction of the new $364 million Interior Heart and Surgical Centre has yet to start—and won't be complete until 2015—KGH medical staff performed their first open-heart surgery Monday night in one of the newly refitted operating rooms at the hospital.

The operating rooms were refitted to handle cardiac surgery as part of the construction project that saw the new six-storey Centennial Building added at KGH earlier this year. The Centennial Building contains a suite of new, state-of-the-art operating rooms.

Monday's operation was described as a complete success and was performed on a man. No details about the patient were released but he is believed to be recuperating well after the surgery. The hospital is planning a ceremony with Health Minister Margaret McDiarmid on Dec. 12 to mark the occasion.

KGH's director of cardiac services Dr. Carol Laberge called the operation a milestone for the hospital. While reluctant to speak about the surgery, she said it went well.

The surgery was performed by cardiac surgeon Dr. Guy Fradet, who was hired as the hospital's first cardiac surgeon last year after the province announced KGH would be getting the new heart centre. KGH is now the first B.C. hospital outside of the Lower Mainland and Victoria providing open-heart surgery.

"It's a huge step forward for health care in the entire region," said a delighted Dr. Richard Hooper, the local cardiologist who was instrumental in the long effort to bring full cardiac care services to KGH.

The operation was the culmination of 15-years of work by Hopper and others and follows the introduction of an angioplasty program to KGH three years ago.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic," he said when asked about the Monday's surgery.

While work on the new, two-storey heart centre building has yet to start—it's slated to begin early next year—the hospital had planned to start offering open-heart surgery either late this year or in early 2013.

To prepare for it, the two specially-equipped operating rooms in the hospital's Royal Building were converted to handle cardiac care surgeries when the new operating rooms in the Centennial Building opened in May.

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