SERVICES for the Tweed's cardiac patients were given a shot in the arm yesterday with the announcement of a $500,000 purpose-built coro- nary care unit for Tweed Hospital.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma and Tweed MP Neville Newell unveiled the plan yesterday.

It involves refurbishment of the hospital's outpatients area, creating a new five-bed unit, and employing an extra nine nursing staff to work alongside medical and other support staff.

More than 600 patients a year will be cared for in the new unit. Currently, the hospital's four coronary-care beds are part of a larger acute-care ward and they will remain there as closely-monitored beds.

The funding includes $380,000 in capital works to refurbish the existing outpatients area and $138,600 for specialist coronary-care equipment.

The government will also provide an extra $300,000 for patients to access specialist diagnostic services at Tugun's John Flynn Hospital.

Mr Iemma said the funding was an investment in extra heart services for the Tweed, with monitored beds in a specialised unit meaning "faster and better care for patients suffering heart conditions".

"We know heart disease is one of the biggest health challenges that we face in the nation ? it's one of the top three killers of Australians ? so it's a great boost to local health services for patients suffering heart conditions to be able to access high-quality, fast and efficient heart care at Tweed Hospital," Mr Iemma said.

"Fast access to high-level treatment is crucial if we are to prevent deaths and serious disabilities caused by heart disease," Mr Iemma said.

Mr Newell said the new unit was important in helping plan for the future, "especially for the ageing population".

Work to refurbish the area for the new unit, he said, would start shortly and was expected to be completed by mid-year.

Tweed Hospital's cardiac-care nursing manager Pam Barrett and emergency physician Rob Davies welcomed the funding, saying it would boost the hospital's ability to care for cardiac patients.

"It's very exciting and means we'll be able to continue giving the best coronary care and closely monitor patients in a dedicated facility," Ms Barrett said.

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