January 28, 2019


St. Mary’s General Hospital Endorses YMCAs for Cardiac Rehabilitation Graduates 

In order to reduce wait times and bring care closer to home, St. Mary’s General Hospital has endorsed current programming at the YMCAs in Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph for its cardiac patients with stable conditions.

The move follows months of planning with the YMCA and with participants of St. Mary’s Cardiac Rehab Alumni Program operated by St. Mary’s since 2007. Until recently, St. Mary’s Cardiac Rehab program had two streams:

  • For acute patients with recent cardiac surgery or angioplasty, or who have other cardiac conditions. Acute patients are referred to a short-term rehabilitation program that offers supervised exercise and heart healthy education
  • For graduates of the acute program who had the option to pay a fee and participate indefinitely in an alumni exercise program

“Transitioning alumni programming to community organizations like the YMCA will reduce wait times for acute patients and offers the former alumni group a wider range of supervised fitness and wellness programs and amenities in four locations, rather than one,” says Andrea Lemberg, Director of the Cardiac Program. St. Mary’s hopes to compile a list of other community providers, so that graduates of the acute program can make their own informed decisions about where to pursue life-long activity, she added.

Prior to the transition, the acute program had a wait list of approximately 245 patients. Acute patients were waiting up to and above 60 days from the time of referral to the first education class, which is twice the 30-day provincial standard. Now with space and resources at the St. Mary’s Rehabilitation program devoted solely to acute patients, wait times are being reduced.

So far, more than 40 of the alumni participants have signed on at the Y and several more have consultation appointments booked.

John Dale, a participant since 2007, said he will miss the strong camaraderie between staff and participants in the program. However, he supports giving new cardiac patients quicker access to the acute program, which he says helped him get on the road to lifelong fitness.

“I have been very pleased with my transition to the Y,” he says. “It has been very well managed. There is more flexibility in hours, I have a personalized exercise plan set up by a fitness consultant and have tried some of the classes. The Y can offer things that (St. Mary’s) Cardiac Rehab really couldn’t.”

 “Like St. Mary’s, the YMCA is committed to supporting lifelong health and wellbeing by providing quality programs delivered by trained and compassionate staff,” added Peter Sweeney, Chief Executive Office of the YMCAs of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo. “We are very excited about what we have to offer participants and we look forward to supporting them across our region.”

The endorsement of community organizations for cardiac rehabilitation alumni programming is the first step in implementing a new vision for cardiovascular prevention and rehabilitation as part of the Waterloo Wellington Regional Cardiac Strategic Plan. Developed in partnership with the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network, the plan seeks to bring more equitable and seamless cardiac care to Waterloo Wellington and beyond, with an eventual goal to add preventive services for those at high risk of developing cardiac issues.


  • In 2017-18 there were 26,400 visits to St. Mary’s Cardiac Rehab Program, an increase of 45% since 2007, when the alumni program launched in 2017
  • In 2017-18 demand increased by 11% for cardiac surgery and 98% for angioplasty
  • Lengthy wait times to begin acute cardiac rehab programming increase the likelihood that patients will visit the emergency department or forgo rehab, potentially increasing their risk for future cardiac events.
  • Of 5,200 patients who underwent cardiac procedures at St. Mary’s in 2017-18, only about 30% enrolled in cardiac rehab.
  • The YMCA has a range of structured supervised and group programming that is appropriate for individuals whose cardiac conditions are stable
  • St. Mary’s Cardiac Program has had a relationship with the YMCA-YWCA in Guelph since 2014 when a satellite location for remote pacemaker monitoring was launched. St. Mary’s patients have the option to have their device activity checked remotely at the YMCA-YWCA in Guelph and interpreted by experts at St. Mary’s.


Anne Kelly, Manager, Communications, St. Mary’s General Hospital

T: 519-749-6578, ext. 1501 | M: 226-339-1903 | akelly@smgh.ca

Shaminda (Shum) Attygalle, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, YMCAs of Cambridge & Kitchener-Waterloo, YMCA-YWCA of Guelph

T: 519-584-7479 ext. 8107  |  M: 519-574-4644  | shum.attygalle@ckw.ymca.ca