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2/1/2011 6:02:00 AM
Kingman Regional Medical Center becomes 1-stop center
Program allows surgery patients to stay in Kingman
KRMC/courtesyLocal residents no longer have to make the trip to Las Vegas or Phoenix to be treated for major heart, lung or vascular problems, after Kingman Regional Medical Center opened its new Cardiothoracic Surgical Program six months ago.
KRMC/courtesy

Local residents no longer have to make the trip to Las Vegas or Phoenix to be treated for major heart, lung or vascular problems, after Kingman Regional Medical Center opened its new Cardiothoracic Surgical Program six months ago.

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter


KINGMAN - Kingman area residents no longer have to make the trip to Las Vegas or Phoenix for major heart or lung surgeries. Kingman Regional Medical Center's Cardiothoracic Surgical Program has been performing major heart, lung and vascular surgeries for the last six months.

"Kingman has a great need for a program such is this," said Dr. Erick Montero, KRMC's lead cardiothoracic surgeon and the head of the department. The city and the county have a large population of people that suffer from a variety of heart and lung problems, including heart disease, lung disease, cancer, heart valve disease, heart rhythm problems, blockage in their arteries and aortic aneurysms.

"This has been a long time coming," said Dr. Jeffrey Lunn. "We were able to do cardiac catheterization and angioplasty with the cardiac cath lab, but we didn't have the surgical side (more than six months ago.) We couldn't do valve replacements, coronary surgeries or deal with heart rhythm disorders," he said. Those patients had to be shipped to bigger hospitals in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Lunn is a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist; he controls the amount of anesthesia and monitors a patient's life signs while the person is undergoing surgery. He is known for his expertise in thoracic and cardiovascular anesthesia. He spent 18 years working for the Mayo Health System and has served as a special clinic fellow, an assistant professor and a consultant with the Department of Anesthesiology and chair of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.

He has also researched, published and lectured on a number of important critical care and anesthesia issues. Lunn left the Mayo Clinic in 2000 and spent several years in private practice in Hawaii, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona before coming to KRMC in 2006. It was KRMC's plan to start a cardiothoracic program that drew him to the hospital.

"I wanted a chance to create a program from the ground up," he said. "This is a huge change for KRMC."

The team not only handles open heart and bypass surgeries, it can also handle certain trauma cases involving the heart and lungs, Montero said. Because of the rural nature of the area and the major highways around Kingman, the team has seen and dealt with a number of trauma cases that previously would have been flown to Las Vegas or Phoenix.

Montero joined KRMC in July after completing a three-year fellowship at the University of Southern California Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. The school is well known for developing cutting-edge and less invasive treatments for heart and lung diseases. Prior to medical school, Montero served as a medic in the U.S. Air Force.

The key to the program is both a surgical team and the ancillary services that can handle both the lab work and the post-surgical care of patients, said Dr. Maria Fritlock, who is also a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist.

She specializes in using ultrasound and airway management techniques to monitor the heart and lungs during surgery and was a professor of anesthesiology at the cardiothoracic division of Duke University Medical Center. She also served her residency and a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic.

A surgical team can repair a person's heart or lungs, but it also needs a skilled team of anesthesiologists, radiologists, profusionists, scrub nurses, assistants, lab technicians, nurses, rehabilitation specialists and social services that can help diagnose and take care of a patient before, during and after surgery, she said.

"We have an incredible team of specialists," Lunn said.

One of the biggest benefits of having such a surgical team in Kingman is that patients can also heal at home, Montero said. They don't have to travel back and forth to Phoenix or Las Vegas for checkups, rehab or other services. Studies have shown that the best healing takes place at home, he said.

And today's technology and less invasive surgical techniques allow doctors to send patients home sooner, usually with less pain and fewer complications, Montero said.

"There's a major difference in today's techniques. I started practicing in a era where open heart surgery or any surgery was a major event," Lunn said. In those days, doctors had to open a patient's chest cavity to do any surgery on the heart, lungs or other major organs.

"I've been doing this since the 1980s. It's a very rewarding profession," Lunn said. He still gets a thrill when he's sees a patient's heart start beating again after being stopped for several hours during surgery.

Opening a cardiothoracic surgical program at KRMC was no easy feat, Lunn said. Besides needing a skilled surgical and pre/post operation team, the hospital had to spend millions of dollars to get the right equipment and build the right facilities.

Heart and lung surgeries are incredibly delicate and complex, he said. In most major heart surgeries, doctors have to stop a patient's heart. A machine cycles and cleans a patient's blood and oxygen through their body for them while the heart is stopped. There are also machines that monitor a person's pulse and heart rate and control the amount of anesthesia a person is getting and more. Those machines can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and the hospital has to have at least two of each, Lunn said.

All three doctors said one of the reasons they joined the KRMC team was because the hospital was willing to spend the money necessary to make the program a reality.

They also came because of the emotional investment the hospital makes in the community, Montero said. Besides specializing in heart and lung surgery, each of them goes the extra yard to make sure their patients and their families understand their particular medical condition and the options available to them. Having a hospital that has the same philosophy is important to them, they said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Article comment by: Rather N. Say

To Lisa L—While I certainly applaud your loyalty to the hospital and Dr. Montero, I hope your grammar and spelling errors are not a reflection of the surgery department. I counted no fewer than ten of those errors in your letter. And while your loyalty to him is to be commended, I wonder, should you be placed under a microscope, will he be just as loyal to you? While I agree that this area needs all the medical and surgical services available, I think the hospital, through the newspaper reporter, misrepresented the cardiac program, skewed the data, and intentionally left out information the public should be aware of. I urge members of the community to visit public internet sites such as Press Gainey, Health Grades, and others to get the facts about the hospital. While the data is not always up to the minute, the facts are that the picture is not as rosy as the hospital would like one to believe.

Posted: Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Article comment by: Sand Walker

I have heard many negative comments about the hospital since moving here from a much bigger city. One of my neighbors is one of the "top dogs" at KRMC....and he confirms that the cardiac surgery dept is in trouble!! Straight from the source!!!

Posted: Monday, February 7, 2011
Article comment by: Carl Thompkins

I can't speak for the others...but I stand by my comments!! I moved to Kingman 14 yrs ago, and one of the first things I heard about was how bad KRMC was! That stands true today! And, ask many people...and they voice the same. Yes, I am glad a little town has a hospital...but the people that run the show there are nothing more than big fish in a little pond!! They would never make it in a big city hospital....maybe that is why they are here....

Posted: Sunday, February 6, 2011
Article comment by: Lisa L

With all do respect to everyones opinion, I have happen to have given the opportunity and privilege to work close with Dr. Erick Montero. Being that some may think that the completion of residency is merely "getting out of school" That is not the case. it is merely completing training to perfect or even master their specialty. I have seen first hand the dedication and loyalty that Dr. Montero and his staff have to their patients.
Yes many negative things have been said about KRMC. And again, much respect to everyones feelings and opinions. But let's focus on what Dr. Montero has stepped into. Taking on a program that has been trying to get started for years of course one would questions all from administration, to nursing and the many questions as to "why" multiple issues have not been solved. Dr. Montero has taking on a task of leading the Cardiac Team and trying to obtain staff that can facilitate the patient s needs before during and after surgery. He has spent many sleepless nights making sure that his patients are watched for the first 48 hours so that he can assure that he is right there if anything is to go wrong or questions are answered so that the family members are at ease as their loved ones recover. He also brings to the table knowledge and is not afraid to refer a patient out if the services can not be rendered at KRMC.
I have also seen first hand his methods of consultation. When a new patient enters his office. I can assure you, that Dr. Montero and his staff know in detail, what is going on, what surgery is going to be performed to most of times a date of operation. Dr. Montero does not only study the images or radiological exams closely, as well as reviews them with the patient so that they can better understand their diagnosis. He also does not waste any time in running his patients or their family members around in circle. Respectfully, Dr. Montero places his cards on the table and gives you as many alternative options as possible.
I can assure you all, that what looks to be a physician "just out of school" is not the case. He is a well educated, knowledgeable and talented physician that is well on his way of becoming a phonomenal surgeon.
I can not stress the respect that I have for everyone's opinion and remarks. However, working with Dr. Montero, I have gained a respect for this man is seeing his compassion, dedication and love for not only medicine, but for his patients as well. I would hope that his "patient care' would over come all. For I trust him with my family.


Posted: Saturday, February 5, 2011
Article comment by: ahetch arizona

I never hope to see the heart Dr. but if I do, with his qualifications, I hope that it's Dr. Montero. And about KRMC, I have been in there overnight twice and received great care. Maybe I'm just not a whiner.

Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011
Article comment by: Allan Gleason

Well, I haven't had open heart surgery yet, but my sister-in-law did and had to go to Phoenix. I've reluctantly attended the hospital in Havasu for a successful prostate operation by a very good surgeon. However, the hospital facilities were lousy and the nurses (with the exception of one) were not helpful - I even had to make my own bed the day after the surgery! I've had two stents installed in my heart's arterial system at the new Hualapai hospital successfully. The hospital is beautiful and the nursing staff (and food) was great! I've been in and out of KRMC several times. The place is state of the art and the staff there very competent. My wife recently had major surgery there where the doctors were not only quite able, but the imaging services were amazing. They are completely computerized and all the doctors of interest had full access to the necessary information even dating back several years! After all, information is vital to diagnosis and KRMC and most likely, Hualapai are quite up to date technologically.

I don't believe that the negativity I've read here is constructive or beneficial to future patients who might be worrying about there medical treatments locally. One of the reasons we moved to Kingman from California was because Kingman provided excellent medical care for a small town.


Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011
Article comment by: Teri W

I work for KRMC and would like to share the following facts (which can be verified through independent sources):

Starting an open-heart surgery program from the ground up is a very complex multi-year process involving certain milestones and objectives, which are monitored by State inspections. KRMC’s open heart program passed these inspections and achieved licensure through the Arizona Department of Health Services. This means that KRMC meets strict guidelines for cardiothoracic surgery expertise, technologies, and process quality. (Program inspections and licensing are a part of the public record.)

KRMC ‘s lead cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Erick Montero is much more than just “out of school.” After completing 12 years of medical school and residency training , he did a three-year fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine (this institution is world-renowned for treatment of heart and lung diseases).

During his fellowship, Dr. Montero performed hundreds of successful open-heart and lung surgeries at the USC Medical Center. These surgeries involved the most recent advancements in cardiothoracic surgery. Since coming to KRMC, Dr. Montero has performed 110 surgeries (30 open-heart and 80 lung). All have been successful.

Having Dr. Montero and an open heart program in Kingman is a great thing for our community.


Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011
Article comment by: S B

I have been in many hospitals, some in Phnx and Las Vegas and other cities throughout the United States. I just had an extended stay at KMRC in the Heart and Lung Unit. Dr. Montero was my Doctor and I can tell you I had some of the best treatment I have ever had. If I had a problem he was there, So he is young, do you have to have an old Dr. for him to be good? I can tell you I had some of the best nurses I have ever had . They were caring and when you needed them they were there NOW ! I am glad Dr. Montero was an Air Force Medic, he may have saved some you services persons life.Thank you Dr. Montero and the Nursing staff of the Heart and Lung unit for being there.

Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011
Article comment by: So What

So he's just out of school, you have to start somewhere right? Would you rather he not be supervised by a very experienced surgeon? Geeze, give the guy some credit for even going to medical school, what education level have you achieved? Probably none since you have criticize anyone that is more intelligent than you.

Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011
Article comment by: Nikki B

http://kdminer.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=797&ArticleID=42668&TM=46261.26

The doctor in the story linked above who had a heart attack and WORKS AT KRMC obviously decided to seek cardiac care in Phoenix.

That is RELEVANT.


Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Article comment by: Warren O

Mr. Vertisement, I don't recall you objecting strenuously when the KDM ran that front-page story about Dr. Locke and HMMC a few weeks ago. So which is it? Do you object to front-page stories about healthcare, or front-page stories about one hospital instead of another?

There probably could be a lot more coverage of a lot more stories being done, but the Miner's newsroom contains three reporters, a photographer, and a sports writer. That's not really enough to cover every story that comes up.

Also ... Is it just me, or do the commenters "No Joke", "Concerned Citizen", "C L", and "Private Private" all write like they're exactly the same person?


Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Article comment by: Private Private

Why is your newspaper so pro-KRMC?????? Tell the real story!!! The cardiac surgery program and all those associated with it is ONE BIG JOKE!!!! Find out the facts!!!

Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Article comment by: Carl Thompkins

Wonder why the other cardiac surgeon left? Wonder why the hospital can't hire a vascular surgeon? Wonder why two cardiac surgery managers left? Wonder why the cardiac surgery staff has been turned over so much and is in turmoil? Wonder why the cardiologists and the current surgeon can't get along? Wonder why the surgery department is headed by a traveling nurse? Wonder why so many nursing managers are leaving the hospital? Wonder why a entire group of Radiologists walked away from the hospital? Wonder why hospital administration doesn't have a clue? Wonder why employee satisfaction scores apparently are altered by senior nursing to make things look better? All these questions need to be answered by your newspaper instead of the free ad you placed for them.....

Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Article comment by: Jolene S

@ Gabby B

What comment did you make that was humerous? Was it the ad vertisement one? Because I didn't find that at all to be funny. I actually found it to be quite offensive since I do work at KRMC and our staff there does do the best they can there to make sick people better. They have spent years trying to get this program up and running so that people with cardiac problems can stay here in town and not have to travel to Las Vegas or Phoenix. If that was you, I suggest that you think the next time before you open your mouth and put your foot in it.


Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Article comment by: C L

Do another story on the program a year from now, and they still will be trying to get it off the ground! And that surgeon will be gone! He will leave just like the last one that was the heart surgeon........

Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Article comment by: Former Patient2

As a former patient, I hope I never have to go back to KRMC, much less the heart surgery department. Everyone in town knows that the hospital is terrible, and the heart surgery program is new, inexperienced, and in trouble. Oh, and I suppossed to be impressed that the doctor is a former Air Force Medic???

Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

Wonder why your newspaper doesn't print the truth about this cardiothoracic surgery program and the hospital? Your newspaper is apparently protecting the hospital!! The public of Kingman deserves to know the hospital is run by inept administration, and a blind nursing adminstration...and the cardiothoracic program is nothing by a sham! The only experienced one is Dr. Lunn. Dr. Montero is right out of school, and is still being monitored and helped by an experienced surgeon from Phoenix. The surgery staff is new, and they don't have a leader. They have a traveling nurse who heads up the surgery department with no experience in cardiac surgery. With this hospital and that program, Kingman is in trouble!! And your newspaper is helping to cover it up!!!

Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Article comment by: AD Vertisement

@ Warren O

Maybe the story about Dr. Locke should have been why he no longer practices at Kingman Regional? Pretty sure he and his fellow surgeons of Tri State Orthopedics were located right next door to KRMC for quite awhile.

The story about an off duty paramedic saving someones life, that just happens to be a local doctor, is far from the advertising the Miner is doing for the old hospital. Let them buy ad space if they want to blow their horn. It doesn't belong on the front page as it is not NEWS worthy.

What would I have them print in their stead?

How about report on why no arrest has been made in the stabbing death of the young man down on Topeka Street or how about the murder of the guy downtown under Black Bridge?

Or maybe report on why the Interstate 40 was closed at Stockton Hill Road on the night of January 10th.

But I guess since the Miner is a daily it needs something to print. Maybe they should go back to being a weekly and actually report on news events.


Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Article comment by: Gabby B

Looks like the KDM is at it again! It seems as though my comment yesterday which was geared toward a little humor on this subject must have ruffled the feathers of the editor. it isn't posted here so it must have been something I said or is the KDM just prejudice?

Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Article comment by: No Joke

Apparently your reporter did not get all the facts! That cardiothoracic surgery program has been trying to get off the ground for over 3 years!! Cardiac surgeons have left, managers have left, staff have left. Finally they get this guy in right out of school.

Posted: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Article comment by: R .

This isn't an advertisement for KMRC, this is indeed major news! This means that our little town is now becoming relevant enough to necessitate medical personnel who can perform this type of major surgical procedure. This is a good thing for this town and good news for us all!

By the way, this paper doesn't seem to be playing any favorites as they blocked my negative comments a few months ago about my personal experience at Hualapai Mountain Medical Center. Why they blocked it I still don't know but that's water under the bridge now.

Anyway, thanks Miner for this story.


Posted: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Article comment by: A News Paper?

Really? Another "news" story about KRMC? It reads like a press release from the CEO, and what a coincidence that it's so close to the "shakeup" story about HMMC? Your bias could not be more obvious.

I don't care what you say, they should not be doing open hearts in Kingman AZ despite the whitewash and spin KRMC spews out.


Posted: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Article comment by: desert dweller

Kind of funny tho, when a local doctor had a major heart attack...he went to Phoenix~~~

Posted: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Article comment by: Warren O

Mr. Vertisement, it was about three weeks ago that the KDM ran an in-depth story detailing orthopedist Dr. Robert Lock and his surgical skills at HMMC.

http://kdminer.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=42196&SectionID=1&SubSectionID=797&S=1

It was just the other day that the Miner ran a story detailing the lifesaving efforts of a local paramedic, Bob Casson, who is not affiliated with any one healthcare facility.

http://kdminer.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=797&ArticleID=42668&TM=46261.26

Furthermore, the KDM hasn't hesitated to offer coverage of the failings of both KRMC and HMMC, when those failings arise.

It seems to me that the Miner has a standing record of reporting healthcare stories as they come to light, which is, after all, what a NEWS paper is tasked to do.

Considering that the two hospitals are among the most significant and highest-paying employers in the county, would you prefer they don't cover these stories? What would you suggest that they run in their stead?


Posted: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Article comment by: Patient Recent

I wasn't looking ad's to get my valve changed, I went to the Dr. and he told me i had problems. Dr. Montero did my valve replacement about a month ago. I am feeling really good considering what i went through.

I must say Dr. Montero to me is a real Dr. I dont say that about very many of them. I was shocked to find out i could get this done here in Kingman.

Thank you KRMC STAFF, Dr. Montero and the Cardiac Team. You all Rock



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