1000 heart surgeries later, Calvary still meeting statewide need

Calvary Lenah Valley Hospital is celebrating a milestone 1000 heart surgeries, six years since opening a specialist cardiothoracic service.

After having an angiogram at Calvary St Vincent’s in Launceston, retired local council horticulturist Ian Rowbottom, from Legana on the Tamar River, travelled to Hobart for valve replacement surgery.

“One thousand is a lot of people – I suppose someone had to be that lucky one, and it’s me,” said Mr Rowbottom, giving doctors and staff top marks for their care. “I thought I was in perfect health, until I wasn’t.”

He also had the chance to meet the hospital’s first patient, Hobart woman Toni Bird, who was 57 when she underwent a quadruple coronary artery bypass in early July 2018.

L-R: Toni Bird and Ian Rowbottom

Calvary Regional CEO, Tasmania, Melissa Evans, said Calvary Lenah Valley Hospital remained the only private provider of cardiothoracic surgery in Tasmania.

“We set out to meet a real need in our community and that need is still real,”

Health data shows heart disease is more prevalent in Tasmania than anywhere in Australia, with more than 45,000 Tasmanians thought to have some form of cardiovascular disease.



“We have patients who come from all around the state. It means people can have their cardiac surgery done in Tasmania and don’t have to travel to the mainland, which in the past was a huge impost and cost for people.”

About 250 heart surgeries a year are now performed at Calvary Lenah Valley Hospital.

“Of those, about 10 per cent are public patients so we continue to provide access to cardiac surgery for patients on the public waiting lists, which is one of the important partnership roles Calvary provides to help ease the burden on the local health care system.”

Ms Evans said cardiothoracic surgery was complex and technical.

The theatre itself is equipped with a heart-lung bypass machine that enables the cardiac surgeons to stop the patient’s heart while continuing to pump oxygenated blood around the body.

“It’s more than just the theatre though, it’s a whole of service approach that includes the Critical Care Unit and the surgical ward that together enables us to provide quality, clinically safe care.

The CLVH Team

“We have a great team here at Calvary Lenah Valley Hospital. Our highly skilled surgeons Dr Keshav Bhattarai and Dr Jee-Yoong Leong, who work across both the public and private sectors, lead the team, supported by our experienced clinical perfusionists, who operate the bypass machine, specialist anaesthetists and perioperative nursing team, as well as all of the staff who provide post-operative care.”

The cardiothoracic surgical service complements the Calvary Lenah Valley Cardiac Centre, which includes a cath lab and provides a range of cardiac and vascular services such as diagnostic test and monitoring, angioplasty, echo and electro cardiography, and the chest pain clinic.

First patient Toni Bird attended a special celebration to mark the milestone with doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital on Wednesday afternoon [3 July] and remains full of praise for the care she received.

“My surgeon was amazing, and all of the hospital staff were amazing. I felt in such good hands,” said Ms Bird, a school community and family engagement officer.

“I remember deciding that I wouldn’t worry about the operation itself, I would leave it in their very capable hands and I would just focus on the post-surgery recovery.”

While it now seems “almost like a hiccup in my life”, Ms Bird knows things could have been very different.

Although fit, healthy, rarely sick, and feeling no symptoms, she decided to have a check-up around the same time her husband did.

“I was shocked. I had an angiogram and the whole right side of my heart was blocked and other arteries were blocked. I was a ticking time bomb.

“My advice to anyone would be to get a check if you have any family history of heart problems. Don’t wait, get it checked.”