Letter: A response to recent letter on BMC cardiac rehab program

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To the editor:

We would like to thank Dr. Henry Tulgan for his letter to the editor and for his service to our community in establishing cardiac rehab at Berkshire Medical Center. We agree, and an extensive body of scientific literature supports cardiopulmonary rehab as a valuable component of recovery from heart procedures and conditions, prolonging life and improving the quality of patients' lives. As Dr. Tulgan points out, we are particularly blessed with a very dedicated staff at our Cardiopulmonary Rehab.

It is critical to know that cardiac rehab is not closed. Cardiac rehab was closed briefly at the order of the governor, in response to COVID-19 in March. We made specific changes in our cardiac rehab department in July so that we could continue to provide services to the most acute patients recovering from severe cardiac and pulmonary diseases to enable these patients access to this valuable treatment as soon as possible after their cardiac event, while minimizing the risk associated with the spread of the coronavirus.

Cardiac rehab provides exercise in a closed space and therefore creates the possibility of exposure of patients and staff to the coronavirus. The cardiac rehab staff have worked hard to establish protocols to ensure the safety of the patients who exercise there, many of whom are among the patients at highest risk for COVID morbidity and mortality.

A critical component of reducing risk is reducing the number of patients using the facility at one time. When cardiac rehab reopened, the decision was made to offer services to the sickest and most acute patients and keep the programs for patients who had "graduated" from cardiac rehab (the maintenance programs) on hold in order to limit numbers.

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We continually reevaluate this decision, as new information became available on the infection rate in our community and new guidelines were offered from experts on preventing the spread of the virus. We look forward to a time when it is generally agreed that it would be reasonable and safe to provide services to a larger number of patients by reopening the maintenance programs.

We thank Dr. Tulgan for his kind words about our valuable cardiac rehab program and applaud his commitment to the health of our community.

Dr. Georgianne Valli-Harwood,

Lenox

The writer is the medical director of Berkshire Medical Center's Cardiopulmonary Rehab program.


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