HSA cardiologist here for three months

By the middle of October, Dr. Stefan Ott will finish his three-month contract and Cayman may once again be without a full-time cardiologist.

Mr. Ott, 45, who has a private practice in Wiesbaden, Germany, began treating patients 18 July as a locum doctor at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

He brings to the Health Services Authority expertise in a range of cardiology services, including echocardiograms, pacemakers, stress tests and catheterization lab procedures.

‘I deal with a whole range of cardiac problems here. I can treat everything except for those requiring certain invasive diagnostic procedures,’ Mr. Ott said.

Patients needing those services are sent to cath labs overseas, mostly to Miami, Houston or Jamaica.

The issue of a cath lab in the Cayman Islands has provoked controversy over the last few months, and Mr. Ott can understand both sides of the debate.

‘An invasive cardiologist like I am always loves to have a cath lab because if you see a problem, you want to find a solution.

‘But getting a cath lab is a question for society and the politicians. You need to look at what quality of healthcare society wants to achieve and how much you want to spend,’ he said.

Cayman’s size also affects its situation, he explained.

‘I’m not sure that this small society needs a cath lab. In many cases, medical interventions work almost as effectively as invasive interventions,’ he said.

Mr. Ott is impressed by what is available in Cayman.

‘I don’t see many places in Europe that are so small and have so much equipment available. Since it is so remote, you need more than for similar populations elsewhere,’ he said.

While the doctor feels he needs about four to six weeks to really learn about a new place, he has already been able to draw some conclusions about what his patients need.

Education key

Educating people on how to improve their health is an important aspect of healthcare, Mr. Ott explained.

‘We need to spend money on education to avoid health issues,’ he said.

Mr. Ott is looking to prevent problems from occurring.

‘To me, prevention is exercise. Don’t take your car, walk. Don’t take the elevator, take the stairs. Reduce calories, cholesterol and fat. Don’t smoke,’ he said.

Mr. Ott added that parents should take the time to teach their children about healthy living and eating.

With his limited time on the island, he has to focus on what he can achieve.

‘I can’t do angiograms or angioplasty here. I can’t open blocked arteries or perform open-heart surgery.

‘I am concentrating on keeping people up and running. The majority of my time is spent at the outpatient clinic, treating patients with heart disease or suspected heart disease. I want to see and help as many people as I can in my time here,’ Mr. Ott said.

Part of his role can be likened to a filter, examining patients and deciding which ones would benefit from treatment overseas.

‘If I see patients here, I can prevent them from having to go overseas. Without a cardiologist, patients would be more likely to be sent overseas,’ he said.

During his first three weeks at the hospital he has identified about five patients who will be sent overseas to be assessed at a cath lab and, if necessary, receive immediate treatment.

‘One of the benefits of having a cardiologist at the HSA is that there will be fewer people sent overseas who don’t need the extra treatment and more transferred who do,’ he said.

The doctor stressed, however, that high risk patients need to take responsibility for their health.

‘If someone is overweight, the cardiologist can’t save their life. They need to save their own life and lose weight,’ he said.

Though this is his first time in the Caribbean, Mr. Ott is no stranger to travel and adventure.

He has canoed on Borneo and bicycled from Lhasa, Tibet, to Kathmandu, Nepal. He was ready for some time away from Germany and took this opportunity to live and work in Cayman.

His first full day here was spent on the beach as Hurricane Emily approached.

‘I had a wonderful day at the beach, enjoying the sunny skies and watching the black clouds move in,’ he recalled.

Though he still has a few months left, Mr. Ott is already contemplating further trips here.

‘I could definitely imagine coming back,’ he said.