The measure is designed to prevent unnecessary deaths at heart institutes, such as the death three years ago of my Aunt Ann, the identical twin sister of my mother Jan. Aunt Ann underwent a cardiac catheterization at a Columbia hospital in March, 2004, but had complications after the heart surgery. Despite her complaints about chest pain, there was no cardiologist on site to attend to her. It took more than an hour for a doctor to show up, and by that time it was too late.
My bill, which has nearly 40 co-sponsors, would mandate that all hospitals performing therapeutic heart catheterizations have a cardiologist on site at all times. Contract nurses would be required to undergo an orientation or training as specialized care nurses in order to work in a heart center.
If a patient died at the hospital, the patient's family would have the right to have an autopsy performed by an independent pathologist not affiliated with the hospital. In addition, any person with knowledge of the death would have to immediately notify the county coroner or medical examiner's office.
I believe the bill is an important piece of legislation that will help save lives and improve cardiac hospital care. A similar Senate bill, S 492, has been introduced by Sen. Vincent Sheheen and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Medical Affairs.
On another health matter, the House voted last week to increase the tax on cigarettes by 30 cents a pack, from seven-cents to 37 cents. Much of the debate centered on how to use the funds that would be generated from the tax. Instead of using the funds to help the 800,000 working families who currently have no health insurance, the House voted to cut the sales tax on groceries in half, from 3 percent to 1.4 percent. The proposal must now go before the Senate.
House members have been working hard to make sure legislation is approved by the full House and sent to the Senate before the May 1 crossover deadline. After May 1, any legislation received by one chamber from the other chamber needs a two-thirds vote just to be heard.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at the Chesterfield County Legislative Delegation Office at 843-623-5001 or write me at 200 West Main Street, Chesterfield, S.C. 29709.