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The Age: Internationally renowned surgeon brings new life-saving service to Canberra



A new heart surgery service available for Canberra’s public patients for the first time is already saving lives.

Canberra Hospital has recruited an internationally renowned cardiologist, Dr Rajeev Kumar Pathak, to start an electrophysiology service to help patients with abnormal heartbeats.

The Heart Foundation has called on the ACT government to further invest in the service to ensure public patients access to critical procedures locally.

ACT Health has funded the initial service and provided “in principle support” for continuing the service.

Dr Pathak said he anticipated providing at least 300 complex procedures in the first year of the new service, which has been operating in some capacity for a few months.

He said it not only meant patients’ quality of life would improve but critically ill patients’ lives could be saved.

It would mean hundreds of patients wouldn’t have to travel to Sydney for the service, and those too sick to be transferred would be given the best shot at recovery.

Previously if a Canberra patient was too critical to go interstate they had to rely on medications to be stabilised.

Dr Pathak said he had already been able to successfully treat patients in cardiac arrest who might otherwise have not survived.

He is in the process of appointing a team including an arhythmia nurse and a cardiac scientist.

“Now that we have this service in Canberra we will be able to provide timely and quick service and world-class care for these patients,” he said.

Electrophysiology uses radio frequency energy to cauterise certain parts of the heart in order to correct short circuits.

Dr Pathak, who is also a widely published academic, did his initial medical training in Canberra before going to Adelaide for his advanced cardiology training and his post-doctoral fellowship in the United States.

The pull of family and the chance to start up the service drew him back to Canberra.

“I feel really good that I’m able to come back to the hospital where I’ve trained and I’m able to give back to the community where I got my training and I’ll be able to service the community,” Dr Pathak said.

Heart Foundation ACT chief executive officer Tony Stubbs welcomed Dr Pathak’s appointment, urging the government to continue its support for the service.

He said prioritisation of the government’s mooted Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency centre was essential.

“We’re really pleased it’s happening and obviously we’d like to see it move to the fully operation service sooner rather than later,,” he said

“I look forward to the ACT government investing further into Canberra’s electrophysiology service at the Canberra Hospital.

“This is very important, as we know that one in three Canberrans will be affected by heart disease, but not everyone has private health insurance.”