The Intermountain Cardiac Emergency Network, linking 18 community hospitals in three states with three highly specialized cardiac care centers - LDS Hospital, McKay-Dee Hospital Center and Utah Valley Regional Medical Center - will be inaugurated July 1.

Announcement of the network, sponsored by Intermountain Health Care, was scheduled Wednesday during a satellite news conference at LDS Hospital.The network will provide 24-hour coverage enabling physicians at community hospitals to consult with center cardiologists to help speed diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks.

Additionally the network will facilitate the transfer of patients whose conditions warrant more extensive evaluation and treatment at one of the three major centers.

"We believe this step will improve your chances of surviving a heart attack," said H. Gary Pehrson, IHC vice president, Northern Region. "We can't relocate LDS Hospital, McKay-Dee Hospital Center or Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. But through this network we can bring their specialized heart services a little closer to every community served by network hospitals.

"This will involve a great deal of time on the part of heart specialists who practice at these three hospitals and the physicians in each community hospital," he stressed. "It will demand enhancements in communications, transportation and research."

Dr. Steven W. Lewis, IHC senior vice president, said the three major thrusts for the network are: community education, enhanced interaction between hospitals and on-going research.

"Our network is committed to raising public awareness of the signals of a heart attack," he said. "It's clear that the general population doesn't know them because nearly one-fourth of all heart attack victims never get to the hospital for treatment; they just die," he said. "Some surely wouldn't if they got to the hospital for care."

Lewis said communication will be enhanced so that community hospital physicians and patients' families are better kept abreast of medical developments with the patient who comes to a cardiac center for treatment.

"Throughout the network, heart attack patients will be returned to their community hospital, whenever appropriate, for rehabilitation and follow-up. This keeps patients close to their homes and families."

Essentially, the Intermountain Cardiac Emergency Network will give people in this service area improved access to more than 20 heart specialists and treatment modalities, including open heart surgery and heart transplants.

Lewis said a third thrust of the network is research on the treatment of heart attacks. Under the direction of nationally recognized cardiologist Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, the network will contribute to the data base of several national studies of heart attack victims and their treatment - keeping the network on the forefront of improvements in patient care.

"Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans and the number one killer of people in the Intermountain West," Pehrson said. "In our region it leads cancer, the number two killer, by a two-to-one margin."

Physicians at the press conference said that if treatment begins early enough, a heart attack can sometimes be aborted entirely. Yet the average victim usually waits three hours before seeking help.

After four hours, most of the heart muscle damage is irreversible. After six hours, salvage of damaged tissue is unlikely, they stressed. The network is being established to help speed up the treatment of heart attacks in both urban and outlying areas.

Pehrson said other community hospitals will be invited to join the network in the coming months.

Participating community hospitals

Alta View Hospital, Sandy

American Fork Hospital, American Fork

Bear River Valley Hospital, Tremonton

Cassia Memorial Hospital, Burley

Cottonwood Hospital Medical Center, Murray

Delta Community Medical Center, Delta

Dixie Medical Center, St. George

Evanston Regional Hospital, Evanston, Wyo.

Fillmore Community Medical Center, Fillmore

Garfield Memorial Hospital, Panguitch

Logan Regional Hospital, Logan

Orem Community Hospital, Orem

Pocatello Regional Medical Center, Pocatello, Idaho

Sanpete Valley Hospital, Mt. Pleasant

Sevier Valley Hospital, Richfield

Star Valley Hospital, Afton, Wyo.

Valley View Medical Center, Cedar City

Wasatch County Hospital, Heber City