Freeman Health System Earns Highest STEMI Designation

Coveted Award Recognizes Quicker Response and Higher Quality Care

(Joplin, MO)Freeman Health System’s Heart & Vascular Institute has once again earned the coveted Level 1 STEMI Center designation from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. This recognition is key when minutes matter most during a cardiac emergency.

Freeman Health System received Level 1 honors in 2017, 2020, and 2023. These designations are valid for a three-year period, therefore Freeman will remain a STEMI Level 1 hospital through 2026.

STEMI is a common name for ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, a serious heart attack in which one of the heart’s main arteries is blocked. Due to the increased risk of death and disability, patients experiencing a STEMI require immediate care. One of 16 Level 1 STEMI Missouri hospitals, Freeman has a door-to-balloon time of less than 55 minutes, lower than the 90-minute recommendation.

“Patients taken to non-specializing nearby hospitals often face critical delays in treatment because they need an initial evaluation before being triaged to a specialized hospital, such as Freeman,” said Paula Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “This more integrated and coordinated approach will help a greater number of people survive and recover from a heart attack.”

To earn the Level 1 STEMI designation, Freeman completed an extensive and detailed certification process that included paramedics, nursing staff, physicians, cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, system quality analysts and administration. The hospital had to demonstrate it has the providers and resources needed to treat STEMI patients, and its physicians and staff have met and will continue to meet strict standards of education and demonstrate proficiency in the latest proven STEMI treatments.

“No matter how many times we receive our Level I STEMI accreditation, it is always very special and rewarding,” said Melinda Estes, AGACNP, FNP, Freeman’s Director of Cardiac and Vascular Services. “Each designation proves our team’s dedication, determination and hard work. Our team continues to strive for excellence and presses forward as a leader in STEMI care for our patients and community.”

Each year, more than 250,000 individuals experience a STEMI. To prevent death, it is critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opening the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication. Freeman is specifically equipped to treat STEMI patients — improving both speed and quality of care — by coordinating 911 response system, ambulance services and hospitals in a comprehensive, integrated approach.

“The STEMI Level 1 designation is a testament to the teams that we have at Freeman and the collaboration that takes place on each and every STEMI patient to ensure that we are providing not only efficient care, but quality and accurate care each time,” said Freeman STEMI Coordinator Michelle Wolfe, RN, RCIS.

In addition to the Level 1 STEMI recognition, Freeman also received in 2023 the Platinum Performance Achievement Award for Chest Pain – MI Registry from the American College of Cardiology, as well as the Quality Achievement Awards Mission Lifeline: STEMI Gold Plus and NSTEMI Gold awards from the American Heart Association.

About Freeman Health System

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center — the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services — as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit


Kevin McClintock, Media Relations Coordinator
Freeman Health System

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