Minister for Health Neil Costa officially opened the Lionel Perez Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre at St Bernard’s Hospital yesterday together with Mr Perez’s daughter Suyenne Catania.
The centre has been named in honour of the late Mr Perez in recognition of his voluntary services.
Mr Costa described the late Mr Perez as a leader in Gibraltar in terms of “putting first, centre and forward always, the needs of patients in Gibraltar, not just in Primary Care but also for cardiac rehabilitation.”
The late Mr Perez was the chairperson of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Support Group, which was founded in 1998 by Gerry Fortuna a cardiac specialist rehabilitation nurse who was also at the inauguration.
Patients enrolled in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre will enjoy the newly renovated space designed to create an optimal, healing environment for patients with cardiopulmonary history or classified as ‘high-risk’.
Cardiac rehabilitation is geared towards improving quality of life and reducing risk associated with heart problems.
The gymnasium is furnished with the latest equipment and a fully integrated audio-visual system, which will provide music during exercise sessions and will support education, mindfulness and relaxation needs.
“When patients suffer a cardiac event, it can be angina or a heart attack, initially there will be a lot of attention on the patient to ensure that they recover from the traumatic event. But, it is important that there is a holistic system and service following the event,” said Mr Costa.
“They need to not forget that they need to take care of their heart and the message that the Cardiac Rehabilitation Association have been impressing on me is that the aftercare after the patient is discharged is equally important as the care that they have received once they were admitted,” he added.
Mr Fortuna said that that he is not just extremely grateful to the Government and Mr Costa, “for having recognised and acted upon the needs of our cardiac patients,” but that the centre will “help reduce the cost of both preventing and treating cardiovascular disease.”
Mrs Catania gave thanks to Mr Costa, Mr Fortuna, Ms Romero and the cardiac unit “for making the dream come true”.
Her father, the late Mr Perez, had his first heart attack at the age of 49 in the 1990s, and at the time he felt very petrified and very alone after he was discharged from hospital.
“That was one of the reasons he was very adamant that something like this [the cardiac rehabilitation centre] should be done. So patients could come together for aftercare and that fear and loneliness that he suffered could be made slightly better,” she said.
“If he was here today, and I hope this is taken constructively, he would have said ‘about bloody time too’,” she added.
Deputy Medical Director Dr Krish Rawal and clinical nurse manager for Primary Care Suzanne Romero, were also present. From a clinical perspective Dr Rawal said that he was certain that cardiac disease of some form hds affected everyone in the room and in the community, either themselves or a family member.
He noted that stark statistics from the UK showed that one in four of the population is impacted by heart disease or blood vessel disease.
“What is very interesting about cardiac disease and cardiac rehabilitation is how we take it on. It affects across the board, it affects all of us, it affects every aspect of our lives, from how we are taught, how we grow up and how we assume our lifestyle habits, how we listen to our lifestyle habits and how we lead and enjoy our lives,” said Dr Rawal.
“To that end I would say I am so proud of this centre because it really demonstrates a perfect elegant example of team work. From the medical team which literally save lives, to the GPs, the nursing staff and to people who perhaps on the face of it you might not think are involved but are fundamentally a part of this.”
“Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dieticians, diabetes nurse, smoking cessation nurse, you name it, it is across the board. What you see today is borne from all these people coming together to show all of us how to lead stronger, better, healthier lives and ultimately my aim is for people to be healthy, fit and to live long and happy lives,” he added.
Clinical Nurse Manager, Suzanne Romero explained: “Cardiac rehab is not just about exercise, it is a comprehensive programme, which helps patients understand the importance of keeping to lifestyle modification changes that will build a healthier future and lower mortality rates.”
Once a cardiac patient has undergone a rehabilitation programme after an event a self-support group is also available to them. This support group comprises of people who have suffered an event and who have undergone the rehabilitation programme. The programme allows cardiac patients to reinforce with each other the importance of lifestyle changes, eating properly, not smoking and drinking in moderation, said Mr Costa.
Mr Costa noted that people in Gibraltar live in a prosperous, safe and wealthy community, but that living in a wealthy community also means that we may have “too much of everything readily at our disposal and we need to be able to learn to say no to certain things.”
In his speech Mr Costa also thanked the Gibraltar Cardiac Association and in particular, its chairman Troy Jeffries and its secretary, Maurice Ignacio. “It is only by listening and acting on association’s recommendations and by understanding patients’ needs that we will continue to improve our health services delivery”.