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Dec. 1, 2014 - USA Medical Center Earns Top Honor for Treatment of Stroke Victims


Pictured here is the University of South Alabama Medical Center's Quality Management team and medical staff members who ensure that when a stroke victim enters our hospital, they are cared for with only the highest measures and guidelines. Standing with them is American Heart Association associate Debbie Cleckley (front row, second from left).

For the second consecutive year, the University of South Alabama Medical Center has achieved the Gold Plus Target Stroke Honor Roll for its treatment of stroke victims.

The honor is awarded by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, recognizing the Medical Center’s continuing improvement in stroke care and achievement of key goals that help minimize or eliminate long-term effects in patients who have had a stroke.

“We have an excellent collaborative team spirit at USA, and despite stroke being a very complex disease, by working together we have shown that we can overcome limitations and establish our center as a place to go to for stroke sufferers,” says Dr. Steve Cordina, director of stroke, neurocritical care and endovascular neurosurgery at the Medical Center.

“The services we provide help improve quality of life for stroke victims, and the ability to reverse a potentially life-ending or very disabling event is something that we take pride at being the best in,” Cordina adds.

“This is the second year the award has been offered, and we’ve earned it both years,” says Sharon Ezelle, the Medical Center’s director of quality management.    

The Gold Plus Target Stroke Honor Roll indicates that the Medical Center follows national guidelines endorsed by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, which are compiled based on years of research, says Stroke Certification Coordinator Tiffany Griffin.

“Following these guidelines validates that the Medical Center is consistently providing the highest level of care,” says Griffin. “We have met and exceeded all the requirements.”

“We’ve been 100 percent on these measures for almost two years — not only the core measures but also on the quality indicators,” says Griffin. “It truly means you are providing a high quality of care — not only meeting but also exceeding the needs of your community.”

The standards cover every aspect of patient care from the time the patient arrives at the hospital until he or she is discharged or transferred to another facility.

The “Target Stroke Honor Roll” component of the award validates that USAMC is providing the “clot busting” drug tPA to patients deemed eligible within an hour of the start of stroke symptoms. The drug works to dissolve clots and get blood flowing freely again, however, the medication is time-sensitive, so patients must make it into the hospital immediately after their stroke starts.

“We scored 100 percent on that measure,” says Griffin.

If a patient arrives at the emergency room with classic stroke signs or any sudden onset— arm or face weakness, slurred speech, confusion, blurred vision — he or she is immediately taken back for assessment by the stroke team, because the faster care is provided, the better the outcome for the patient.

“Time is brain,” says Griffin, quoting the maxim for stroke care.

Another key to providing prompt care is getting the patient to the hospital in the first place, says Griffin. So the hospital is involved in a major campaign to educate the community about symptoms of stroke and what to do if they think that they or someone else is having a stroke.

“Call 911,” says Griffin. Rather than waiting to see whether it gets worse or trying to drive yourself to the hospital, the best response is to call 911, she says.

The emergency medical services’ team in our community have well trained in recognizing strokes, she says, and will call the emergency room so medical staff can prepare and the stroke team will be waiting for your arrival.

Most patients recognize that if their chest hurts, they might be having a heart attack and need to go to the hospital, she says, but stroke symptoms can be vague. Nonetheless, the longer people wait to seek treatment, the less chance for great outcomes.

In an acute stroke, 1.9 million neurons die, she notes. “The longer a patient waits for treatment, the fewer treatment options are available.”

“We live in the 'Stroke Belt,'” Ezelle says. With higher than average levels of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, “we have a much higher than average risk of stroke in our region.”

Stroke is also the leading cause of disability in adults — the number one reason that people are confined to a nursing home.

"Focusing on this is a really good thing because of the opportunity to reverse the disability that’s associated with stroke,” Ezelle says. "The 'clot busting' drug — administered promptly — can often minimize or prevent disability.”

 “In the first hour, the drug is so successful,” she says.

 “Everybody knows someone who’s had a stroke,” she says. “To be able to change the quality of life for stroke victims is wonderful.”

About the University of South Alabama Medical Center

The University of South Alabama Medical Center offers patient-centered care to the central Gulf Coast with unique services including Mobile’s only Level I Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center, plus Centers of Excellence in stroke care and cardiovascular diseases, and a wide range of acute care services.

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