SANTA ROSA -- Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital now ranks No. 1 for the speed of its cardiac emergency program, according to a report comparing the St. Joseph Health System facility with 949 others nationwide.

According to a quarterly American College of Cardiology Foundation data registry, Memorial reported the fastest “door-to-balloon” time, or the interval between when the patient enters the hospital and blood flow is restored to the heart following cardiac arrest.

The hospital attributed the improved efficiency of the program to measures implemented by the hospital’s cardiac specialists and Coastal Valleys Emergency Medical Services staff, including better field detections and swift administration of medications. The team reported an average time of 66 minutes for the first three months of 2009, far faster than the national care standard of 90 minutes.

The hospital also attributed some time savings, about two to five minutes, to the $57-million Heart & Vascular Institute, which opened last fall. The three-story, 27,000-square foot facility is located immediately adjacent to the emergency department, allowing for shorter triage time.

“When clogged arteries are blocking the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, every minutes counts,” said Memorial Cath Lab Manager and registered nurse Trish Scalercio.

“The quicker we restore blood flow to the heart, the greater the patient’s chances of survival, full recovery and minimized heart muscle damage.”