Positive news for county stroke victims 0
SEAN CHASE Dr. Wilbert Keon, chair of the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, asks a question during a presentation on stroke care in the region. The Champlain LHIN held their monthly meeting in Cobden on Wednesday.
COBDEN - Stroke patients in Renfrew County are receiving faster medical attention and recovering quicker than in previous years.
That was the positive news delivered to the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) board members Wednesday as they heard the region, which covers eastern Ontario from Cornwall to Deux Rivieres, has achieved the second lowest stroke hospitalization rate in Canada.
Additionally, through the Champlain Regional Stroke Network, a collaboration of national, regional, and local institutions within the region to make improvements in the way stroke care is delivered for 1.2 million residents, there are now 240 fewer strokes per year saving $12 million annually in health care costs. According to 2010 statistics, there has been a 32 per cent reduction in time to inpatient rehabilitation admission and 16 per cent reduction in 30-day mortality rates.
Strokes remain a leading cause of death and adult disability among Canadians with 20,000 people suffering from a transient ischemic attack (TIA), the neurologic dysfunction caused a loss of blood flow commonly known as a stroke.
“Strokes are quite devastating and they are common,” Jim Lumsden, director of the Champlain Regional Stroke Network, told the Champlain LHIN board of directors who held their monthly meeting at Grace United Church.
Every minute that the brain is ischemic, almost two million cells die. Tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), a protein involved in the breakdown of blood clots, can be used to treat embolic or thrombotic stroke if the patient is diagnosed in time. Mr. Lumsden said that through the adoption of revised protocols and best practices medics and doctors are diagnosing and treating stroke victims quicker than 10 years ago.
He said that when suspected stroke patients arrive at emergency rooms across Renfrew County they are assessed and transported to the Pembroke Regional Hospital, the location of the regional stroke prevention unit. Upon arrival at PRH, emergency physicians activate the acute stroke protocol to ensure that specific tests and assessments are conducted quickly to determine if the patient was a good candidate for the TPA clot-busting drug which helps to reverse the effects of a stroke.
The response times have improved 50 per cent in the Champlain LHIN since 2009, he added. The time that a patient is registered, assessed, scanned and prepped for TPA has dropped from 94 minutes to the current 47 minutes on average.
“We are provincial leaders in stroke prevention,” said Mr. Lumsden.
Stroke patients who receive TPA have a 30 per cent reduction in death or disability three months after their event, he explained. With specialized stroke unit care in Pembroke, hospital stays have dropped by four days. Patients are also going into rehabilitation much quicker and as early as five days.
“We’re progressively improving the system to move people faster,” he said.
The network receives modest funding from the Ministry of Health with $1.2 million being invested annually in stroke treatment and prevention. While it is not huge amounts of money, it is dedicated funding, said Sabine Mersmann, chair of the Champlain Regional Stroke Network Steering Committee.
“We have put the resources into the program and we see the patient outcomes at the end of it that are significant,” said Ms. Mersmann.
The network will continue to strive for coordinated and consistent quality of care across the Champlain LHIN, while developing and promoting evidence-based care and best practices, said Mr. Lumsden, adding the resources are being allocated to ensure patients have access to stroke care.
“It makes it easier for health care workers to follow the best practices, do what is in the best interests of the patient and do it quickly,” he said.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist