SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Cardiovascular patients across coastal Georgia now have new resources and improved access to medical care. It follows the closure of a major medical center in Atlanta.

“If you look across the entire country, cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of men and women of all ages,” said Dr. Chadwick Stouffer.

Each year, more than 800,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease. State leaders and health officials have developed a new plan to reduce the number of heart-related deaths in Georgia.

“We were sort of in the lower third of the country when it came to mortality related to cardiac emergencies,” Stouffer said. “That’s when the leaders at the state level and the department of health decided we need to do some things across the state to make sure Georgians aren’t dying at the rate they’re dying from heart disease.”

Through a new system of identifying standout care in cardiology, officials are helping make sure patients get the best care. Just last week Memorial Health’s Heart and Vascular Institute was given a top distinction in the field. 

“We’re the first one in the region to do that and one of the very first ones in the state to receive that designation,” Stouffer said. 

Memorial Health is now a level-one emergency cardiac care center, which means improved access and treatment options for heart patients.

“As a level one, there are three levels, level one deals with the highest acuity and the sickest of the cardiology patients we see here in the region,” Stouffer said.

That designation means more resources available to those they care for.

“The different levels really have to deal with the availability and the what resources each facility has at their disposal,” Stouffer said. “Having on-site and 24/7 availability of not only cardiology services in the lab where we stand but also all of our surgical services, our support when it comes to heart pumps and things people need emergently to survive.”