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January 31, 2018

Improving access to stroke care in Central South Ontario

By: Teresa Smith, Vice President, Adult Regional Care, Hamilton Health Sciences

Winnie Doyle, Executive Vice President, Clinical Services, Mental Health and Addictions and Chief Nursing Executive, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton

Specialization of stroke care at Hamilton General Hospital

Last year, over 1,000 people in our community experienced a stroke.

It can be terrifying. You may lose strength in one side of your body. You may have trouble speaking. Your face will often start to droop, among other signs of stroke. When a stroke happens, timely access to safe, quality best-practice care is critical to survival and recovery.  Everyone in our region deserves this access.

A greater chance of being alive and living at home in the year following a stroke

Across the city, we are fortunate that Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton are centres of excellence, which, until recently, have shared responsibility to provide care for patients experiencing stroke. As of this month, all stroke care is now provided at the Hamilton General Hospital – the Regional Stroke Centre.

The reason for this is simple: evidence shows that patients who are treated on a designated stroke unit achieve better outcomes. This means a greater chance of being alive and living at home in the year following a stroke.

The Hamilton General has a designated stroke unit staffed by a team of doctors and health care providers from a range of related specialties. These doctors, nurses and other care professionals primarily treat stroke patients and have expertise gained through specialization. The more patients they see, the more they understand about this disease.

The site is also home to our region’s rehabilitation centre, which helps patients recover during and beyond their stay in hospital.

The Hamilton General’s record speaks for itself. For example, in the most urgent stroke cases, it has the fastest time in Ontario for patients to receive clot-busting medication. Considering that up to 1.9 million brain cells die each minute a stroke is untreated, this is essential.

The Hamilton General is also the regional stroke endovascular therapy centre serving 2.2 million residents – one of only six Ontario hospitals to offer this treatment. This innovative and life-saving approach removes the blood clot from the brain, reducing the impact of the stroke.

This is not the first time our hospitals have come together to centralize the delivery of care to improve patient outcomes. Rather it’s the next phase in a long history of collaboration. Think of adult mental health and kidney care at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, or pediatric and cardiac treatment at Hamilton Health Sciences.

In modern health care, specialization is the best approach. We know that our integration of stroke care will help continue on this legacy of working together to improve our community’s health.