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Physicians Regional Healthcare System begins open-heart surgery


Liz Freeman   | Naples Daily News
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Jack Goldfield relied on cardiac stents to keep blood flowing in his heart for 30 years.

The stents helped keep him alive and hustling in the agricultural commodities business in Texas and raise a family.

Now semi-retired at 73 and living in Estero, Goldfield’s cardiologist told him a month ago that blockages in his arteries were extreme. Bypass surgery was essential.

Goldfield became the first person to have open-heart surgery at Physicians Regional Healthcare System’s new program that officially started July 20.

The quadruple bypass surgery was done by Dr. Scot Schultz, a cardiothoracic surgeon who returned to Naples after a nearly seven-year absence. He is medical director of the Heart Center at Physicians Regional.

Schultz was chief of the department of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at NCH from 2007 to 2013. When he left Naples, he went to McLeod Health in Florence, South Carolina.

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The debut of open-heart surgery at the Pine Ridge campus of Physicians Regional ushers in a new era in Collier County for patients to have another option for where to have the life-saving surgery close to home.

The NCH Healthcare System has run the only program in Collier since 1996.

Physicians Regional at Pine Ridge is strategically located to serve fast-growing Collier and Estero for patients needing open-heart surgery when time is critical, Schultz said.

“For patients to have a choice is a good thing,” Schultz said. “I want there to be two great programs in Collier County.”

Paul Hiltz, president and CEO of NCH, said the hospital system is committed to quality patient care and to building the best future for Collier County residents.

He said Schultz was an integral part of the cardiac program at NCH in its early days and wished him the best with the new program at Physicians Regional.

The NCH Heart Institute performed 345 open-heart procedures last year, according to the hospital system.

“Our cardiovascular program is a top priority, and we continuously evaluate our program to ensure we provide our community with the best cardiac healthcare services in the nation,” Hiltz said.

Project comes together 

Officials at Physicians Regional announced plans for an open-heart program in spring 2019 and a multi-million dollar renovation at the Pine Ridge campus was planned.

The hospital system has 201 beds combined with a second location off Collier Boulevard. lt is owned by the Franklin, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems.

Scott Lowe, CEO of Physicians Regional, contacted Schultz in 2017 about coming back to Naples and it fell into place in late 2019.  Schultz moved back to Naples in January 2020.

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“From that point on I became involved with recruiting our team,” he said.

The program hired 25 people, many from NCH with whom he had worked years earlier, he said.

The heart center has two fellowship trained cardiac anesthesiologists who will rotate taking calls every other night, he said.

“It’s an extremely experienced team,” Schultz said.

The heart center has its own pre-operating area, two cardiac catheterization suites, two operating rooms and a third operating room that is a hybrid suite that can be quickly used for surgery.

A second cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Dennis Stapleton, has joined the heart program at Physicians Regional. He previously worked at NCH and most recently was in Port Charlotte, Schultz said.

Physicians Regional projects performing 180 to 200 open-heart surgeries annually.

Patients who present with heart conditions that require bypass surgery no longer need to be transferred out, which delays their care, Lowe said.

When announcing plans for the open-heart center in spring 2019, Lowe said Physicians Regional was transferring out 100 patients or more for the surgery.

The community benefits with talented surgical specialists like Schultz, said Dr. Rebekah Bernard, president of the Collier County Medical Society.

“The addition of surgical expertise not only directly serves our patients but also elevates the level of care among our physician colleagues throughout the county,” she said.

He knew something was wrong  

Goldfield was 42 when his heart troubles began, but he never had a heart attack. He would get stents placed in arteries to open blockages and allow for blood flow.

That approach worked for 30 years until his heart beat started becoming irregular and his blood pressure and heart rate dropped dramatically.

Up until that point, Goldfield said he was not having problems.

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“I was riding my bicycle every day,” he said.

His cardiologist said he needed bypass surgery and referred him to Schultz.

The quadruple bypass surgery was scheduled for July 22, and he became the first patient in the new heart center.

“They told me,” he said.

He spent four nights in the hospital and has been recovering at home. The biggest adjustment is getting used to the 7-inch incision in his chest.

He praised Schultz and his attentiveness.

“He was most compassionate and caring,” Goldfield said. “I think with Dr. Schultz and Dr. Stapleton and the team they put together is great.”