Heart patients who live in and near Dalton, Georgia will soon be able to receive a high level of care at Hamilton Medical Center when a new comprehensive cardiac program is added.  

Last fall, Georgia's Department of Community Health awarded the hospital a Certificate of Need to proceed with its plans.   

Hospital executive Sandy McKenzie says this will add to the level of care they can provide their patients.

"I think this will be a great addition to the services we already provide this community," Mckenzie said.

Dalton resident, Larry Winter, is a survivor of bypass surgery. He said traffic problems on the interstate and communication problems delayed his surgery in Chattanooga.

"They put me in an ambulance, raced me to Chattanooga to have a bypass done," Winter recalled. "I get to the hospital and there was a scheduling problem. So this is Thursday, and they weren't able to schedule me for anything until Saturday."

McKenzie says traffic on the interstate is a major issue for emergency services.

"That chokehold at the I-24/I-75 split, many times traffic backs up and from an ambulance transport perspective, it can add anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes of travel time.

McKenzie says the new comprehensive cardiac care center will save lives and make life easier for patients and their families.

"For them to be able to stay in the hospital with the doctors they're used to, to me, is a tremendous victory for the people in Northwest Georgia," she said.

The new open-heart surgery program is expected to bring more jobs to the community with the addition of physicians, surgeons and surgical staff to support the program.

Hospital officials hope to have the program in place by the end of the year.