A Franciscan sister was the first patient to undergo a medical intervention at Mater Dei Hospital yesterday morning amid the flashes of cameras and the relaxing sound of classical music.

Cardiac services chairman Albert Fenech was the one holding the scalpel in the Cath Lab, part of the Catheterisation Suite, where yesterday he carried out two of the four angiograms scheduled for the day.

Franciscan sister Veronica Caruana's heart and arteries were examined using the €2.5 million state-of-the-art angiography machine.

Listening to classical music, Prof. Fenech occasionally sang along as he carried out the 20-minute procedure.

Music, he said afterwards, is extremely important to relax both patients and staff, with some patients - who are awake throughout the procedure - bringing their own CDs.

Speaking to The Times afterwards while in the recovery room, Sister Caruana praised the "marvellous hospital" and great staff, saying that the difference from St Luke's was quite evident.

She had not been expecting to be the first patient to have a medical intervention done at the brand new hospital, she said.

"I feel good, happy and satisfied with this amazing and marvellous hospital," she said.

Some 2,200 angiograms, 600 angioplasties and 300 pacemakers are carried out every year in Malta, and the numbers are set to increase, Prof. Fenech told the media. The new hospital is set to have two Cath Labs, which should reduce the waiting lists.

Asked about the biggest advance since the Cardiac Unit was set up over 12 years ago, Prof. Fenech said this was the fact that only three cardiac patients who needed extremely rare operations had to be sent abroad, a far cry from the 400-odd patients who used to be sent abroad annually.

Today, he continued, all procedures are carried out locally with results that are better than the European average. He praised his "amazing team" which is moving from St Luke's Hospital.

Prof. Fenech said the fact that the new equipment is digital produces better images. He pointed out that, when St Luke's Hospital was built, a cardiac unit was not on the cards, which led to it being dispersed around the hospital, something which is a thing of the past in the new hospital.

An operating theatre, the Intensive Therapy Unit and an anaesthesiologist were on standby in case of complications during yesterday's interventions.

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