Dr. Rodney Badger

Dr. Rodney Badger talks to a crowd of Elko Area Chamber members Thursday about the benefits of the cardiology program at Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital.

ELKO — Patients who suffer heart attacks may be able to avoid a long trip to Salt Lake City with the creation of Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital’s cardiology program.

The hospital recently announced the hiring of Dr. Rodney Badger, an interventional cardiologist who noticed a need for a more comprehensive cardiology program at NNRH while working at a hospital in Utah.

“Just the helicopter alone is about $50,000. The hospital costs itself is going to end up being about the same,” he said. “But the real cost is in time. That transport time is heart muscle that’s being destroyed. So the big cost savings is that more people live and less people are disabled.”

Badger has only been with the hospital two weeks but said he has already been able to treat a patient who would have had to travel a long way to get treated.

“We had our first heart attack patient come in yesterday,” he said. “We fixed her up, opened her heart and she’ll probably go home tomorrow. She definitely would have had to been flown to either Reno or Salt Lake.”

Hospital CEO Rick Palagi said having a doctor on staff like Badger was key to improving services to patients suffering from heart issues.

“We’ve had great staff and the ability to do these kind of things but we haven’t been able to have the physician part of the equation at this level, “ he said. “We’re so grateful to be able to have the physicians of this caliber that are coming in to start this program.”

Palagi also mentioned that the hospital admitted five emergency room patients who had heart issues who will be able to get the necessary procedures done in Elko.

One of the challenges of starting the program was the initial cost. But when Palagi discussed it with the hospital board of directors he said it was an easy decision to start building the program.

“It is an expensive program to start up. We probably have about $1 million invested in getting it set up,” he said. “That gives somebody a bit of a pause when you’re looking at that kind of money to invest. For us it was kind of a no-brainer.”

Despite the initial investment Palagi pointed out that as a community hospital he thinks NNRH has an obligation to improve the cardiology program to better serve the area, which has a lot of heart disease patients.

Director of marketing Hope Cripps also mentioned how important it was to have the program at the hospital based on the number of patients they were having to transfer to other medical facilities.

“Fos us it’s about the number of patients that need to be close to home,” she said. “Its not about finances or anything else.”

Even though he has only been at the hospital for two weeks Badger said it feels good to see that his work will have an impact in the area.

“I have the best job in the world,” he said. “I get to save lives and people thank me. How many people have a job where people come and thank them for saving lives?”

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