St. Charles Health System and Bend Memorial Clinic said Monday they are working together to expand the region’s vascular program, which offers some procedures only previously available in other markets.

“Every minute is tissue,” said Karen Doolan, St. Charles’ director of heart services. “If blood flow isn’t getting to tissue and you have to transport someone to Portland or elsewhere for treatment, they can be at risk for losing a limb, losing function or even losing their life.”

The collaborative effort means Central Oregonians will have access to sophisticated limb-and life-saving treatments for vascular disease in Bend.

As part of the expanded program, Dr. Wayne Nelson joined BMC in July as the only fellowship trained vascular surgeon in Central Oregon. As a vascular and endovascular surgeon, he is dedicated to the care of disorders of the circulatory system including the arteries and veins. 

“In the past, patients have had to travel over the mountains to receive the type of care that Dr. Nelson now provides in Central Oregon,” said Dr. Sean Rogers, BMC medical director. “By expanding our program and adding a vascular surgeon of Dr. Nelson’s caliber, we are able to better medically manage our vascular patients, create long-term care plans for them, as well as treat a high level of trauma.”

St. Charles, meanwhile, is designing a state-of-the-art hybrid operating room that will combine the traditional diagnostic and interventional functions of a catheter lab with the surgical functions of an operating room.

It will allow physicians to perform both catheter-based procedures and open surgeries in the same space. Once finished, it will be the largest facility of its kind in the Northwest.

“The entire system is ceiling mounted and configured so if physicians are performing a catheter-based procedure on a patient with complex vascular disease and have to convert to an open case, everything moves out of the way,” Doolan said.

The hybrid operating room is slated for completion in early 2014.