News Online: Province sees decline in stroke-related hospital visits

Published online at on February 28, 2011.

Linda Hoang, Global News: Monday, February 28, 2011

Province sees decline in stroke-related hospital visits

There’s been a huge drop in stroke-related emergency visits and hospital deaths in Alberta, the government announced Monday.

According to results from the first evaluation report of The Alberta Provincial Stroke Strategy (APSS), fewer Albertans are dying because of strokes and more are getting access to urgent stroke treatment, thanks to a province-wide stroke strategy.

“Stroke numbers are down, as are the numbers of people dying from stroke,” said Dr. Tom Jeerakathil, a neurologist and chair of the APSS evaluation and quality improvement pillar and lead author of the report.

“By conservative preliminary estimates the annual cost of strokes to the province has decreased by more than $22 million.”

The report shows that since 2005, when the strategy was established, there has been:

– a 23% drop in emergency department and in-patient hospital visits for strokes between 2004/05 and 2008/09
– a 27% reduction in in-hospital deaths for ischemic strokes (strokes resulting from a blocked blood vessel in the brain) between 2004/05 and 2008/09
– a 28% reduction in mortality for hemorrhagic strokes (strokes caused by bursting blood vessels) in the same time period
– 28 stroke centres and stroke prevention clinics set up across the province providing Albertans 24-hour access to stroke treatment.
The Alberta Provincial Stroke Strategy was launched after an incident six years ago involving a rural patient who was suffering from a stroke. There was little the patient could do until he arrived in Edmonton, but by then it was too late.

The government has invested $42.5 million into the stroke strategy and say that it’s paying off.

“There are a number of things that are going on across the province,” Jeerakathil said.

Education and awareness programs are also proving to make an impact across the province.

“Public awareness campaigns have produced 4-13% improvements in the awareness of various symptoms of stroke.”

A hotline exists to allow physicians to consult with stroke neurologists.

“Some remarkable progress that has been made,” said Gene Zwozdesky, minister of health and wellness.

“We are that much closer to being able to say confidently that it doesn’t matter where in Alberta you are when you have a stroke, you will have access and the same care,” said Dr. Chris Eagle, CEO of Alberta Health Services.

The Alberta Provincial Stroke Strategy is a collaborative partnership between Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Health Services and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, NWT & Nunavut.

It is a network of stroke services that shares information and offers inter-regional clinical referrals to improve stroke care across Alberta.

The Alberta Government committed $20 million in 2005 over a two-year period and a further $22.5 million in 2008 over three years.

Click here to view The Alberta Provincial Stroke Strategy: Improving Stroke Care Across Alberta Evaluation Report.

About 5,500 Albertans suffer a stroke each year.

Click here to read the article on the Global Edmonton website.

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