As a family physician, Dr. Andy Jassal often voiced his concerns about the lack of resources he and his colleagues faced in treating patients in a timely manner.
But now, it is his widow advocating for better patient care in her husband’s memory.
Andy Jassal died of a heart attack at the age of 42.
Two years later, his widow says she is frustrated Surrey Memorial still lacks some specialized equipment for heart patients and wonders if the hospital had its own angiogram lab, whether her late husband might still be alive.
“I’m not sure,” said Nav Jassal. “All I know is that Andy never got that opportunity.”
She said her husband had no prior health issues, but suddenly in March of 2021, he fell ill. He drove himself to the hospital.
“He collapsed outside the hospital with a heart attack,” she said.
Doctors would try and stabilize him, knowing he would need to be transported to Royal Columbian, the closest facility with the specialized care he would need.
“Before they could do anything about transporting him to unplug his artery, essentially of a clot that was causing the heart attack, he went into another cardiac arrest,” she said.
“If Surrey Memorial had the facility to treat the clot, could they have wheeled him down to that lab right away as he was suffering that second heart attack and could that artery been unplugged?” Jassal, asked, wondering if the outcome could have been different.
“I’m not sure. All I know is that Andy never got that opportunity and that is something very difficult for me to reconcile with,” she said.
Nav Jassal said she is surprised that the hospital in B.C.’s second largest city doesn’t have an angiogram lab.
Dr. Kapil Bhagirath, a cardiologist at Surrey Memorial, was a long-time friend of Andy Jassal’s.
“I can’t help but wonder that if we had an angiogram just down the hallways in the most serious type of cardiac arrest that he had, that perhaps the outcome would have been different,” he said.
Bhagirath says about five patients a day arrive at Surrey’s hospital needing treatment for heart attacks and he says the care they receive is good. But he says for some patients, Surrey simply doesn’t have the resources they need.
“We try our best every day to manage with the resources that we have, but the frustration level is high. And I wish that we could do more in these really serious types of heart attacks,” he said, explaining that while Vancouver has two angiogram labs, there is only one in the Fraser Health region at Royal Columbian Hospital.
“When there is a heart attack with a cardiac arrest, you really need the ability to open up that artery as soon as possible and the transport issues can be a huge hindrance,” Dr. Bhagirath explained.
A new lab would cost millions to start up, but the doctor said it’s really the ongoing operating costs that need a commitment of government funding.
The health minister told CTV News that he’s just received a proposal for an angiogram facility.
“If you look at the entire Fraser Health region, if you were going to expand that service, you would have to assess where the best place to put that service is,” said Adrian Dix.
“It’s a healthcare system that isn’t governed by municipal borders,” he said, adding that he agrees more services are needed, but that there are other places in B.C. where the travel distance is far greater than from Surrey to Royal Columbian in New Westminster.
While the minister considers the proposal, Nav Jassal said she will continue to fight for better care for heart patients.
She said it’s what her late husband would have wanted.
‘He had a good heart. He cared for his family, his children, for his patients and the community,” she said.
“He was a noble man. He really was.”