Stroke strategy reports dramatic progress

Stroke centres and clinics around Alberta, including at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, have contributed to a dramatic drop in strokes.

Stroke centres and clinics around Alberta, including at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, have contributed to a dramatic drop in strokes.

The Alberta Provincial Stroke Strategy evaluation report released on Monday showed a 23 per cent drop in emergency department and inpatient hospital visits for strokes between 2004-05 and 2008-09.

Deaths in hospital from stroke caused by a blocked blood vessel in the brain also fell 27 per cent, along with a similar decline for a burst blood vessel in the brain

“This is the progress we’ve made in four years,” said Tom Jeerakathil, Edmonton stroke neurologist and chair of strategy’s evaluation and quality improvement committee.

Launched in 2006, Alberta is only the second province to fully adopt its provincial stroke strategy which makes the province an innovator, he said.

Ontario launched its strategy in 2000.

“There used to be just five places in the whole province where clot-busting therapy could be given. Since the strategy, that has been increased to 16,” Jeerakathil said on Monday.

Stroke centres provide acute care with 24-hour access to stroke treatment, specialist consultation and clot-busting drugs. Teleconferencing allows physicians in rural and urban areas to consult with stroke neurologists. Stroke prevention clinics treat people on an out-patients basis.

But the work isn’t over yet, including in Red Deer, Jeerakathil said.

“We’re trying to further improve the time from hospital arrival to treatment across the province. We’re trying to increase referrals from patients seen in hospital to stroke prevention clinics upon discharge.”

The strategy was developed from the need to become more organized about strokes and to reduce the rural and urban discrepancy in care.

“There was good care in urban centres, but the care was many years behind in rural centres.”

Stroke centres provide protocol to identify and treat strokes, using staff from emergency departments.

Alberta has two comprehensive stroke centres, one in both Edmonton and Calgary. Red Deer has one of the larger centres outside Edmonton and Calgary.

In the Central Zone of Alberta Health Services, Camrose, Drumheller and Lloydminster have smaller stroke centres.

Jeerakathil said the strategy allowed Red Deer to further develop its stroke services.

In Red Deer, about 375 people annually visit the emergency department with a stroke or mini-stroke and about 160 are admitted to hospital.

Red Deer has two neurologists working out of its prevention clinic.

The province committed $20 million in 2005 over a 2-year period to the strategy and renewed its commitment to improving stroke care in Alberta with $22.5 million in 2008 over 3 years.

The strategy will be maintained under Alberta Health Services and is a collaborative partnership between Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Health Services and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, NWT & Nunavut.

To view the Alberta Provincial Stroke Strategy: Improving Stroke Care Across Alberta Evaluation Report visit www.health.alberta.ca.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com