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Joins small group of North Bay hospitals; ‘we knew there was need’

[caption id="attachment_28038" align="alignright" width="360" caption="Neuroimaging equipment including CT and MRI scanners assist the stroke team in identifying and diagnosing stroke."][/caption]

SANTA ROSA – Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital recently became a nationally accredited primary stroke center.

The certification by the Joint Commission on Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the prominent national health care standards body, recognizes the Memorial Hospital program as fulfilling critical metrics and performance measures associated with improved results for stroke patients.

Memorial joins a select group of hospitals in the North Bay certified by the joint commission as primary stroke centers: Kaiser Santa Rosa Medical Center, Kaiser San Rafael and Marin General Hospital. Other hospitals certified for primary stroke care are accredited through different standards programs.

“The accreditation is an affirmation of our ability to deliver quality, ‘big city’ care to this community,” said Smriti Wagle, D.O., neurology, medical director of Memorial’s stroke program.

Memorial’s certification is the culmination of a two-year effort to develop a program of coordinated, around-the-clock rapid response to stroke and specific stroke treatments and protocols based on evidence-based medicine. Elements of the program include creating a stroke code team with 24/7 availability, providing stroke education and training for physicians and nurses in multiple hospital departments, conducting stroke patient rounding with a multidisciplinary team several times per week and educating the public about prevention measures and the signs and symptoms of stroke.

The stroke team consists of physicians and nurses specializing in neurology, neurosurgery, neuroradiology, emergency medicine, physiatry and endovascular and vascular surgery working together to determine the best treatment option for each patient. Neuroimaging equipment including CT and MRI scanners assist the stroke team in identifying and diagnosing stroke.

Stroke is the number one cause of disability and the number three cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. More than 700,000 people have a stroke each year. Emergency medical care within the first three hours of a stroke can mean the difference between life or death, full recovery or permanent disability for stroke victims.

Sonoma County has consistently ranked in the top five counties in California with the highest mortality rates associated with stroke, according to Christopher Brockway, clinical coordinator and manager of Memorial’s stroke program.

“We knew that there was a real need for this,” he said. “Memorial is committed not only to providing comprehensive stroke care but to providing comprehensive neuroscience services for this region.”

Relatively few hospitals have certified stroke programs because the need for specific protocols and an integrated approach to stroke care is a fairly recent development, Mr. Brockway said.

To maintain program certification, Memorial must continue dedicated stroke education for physicians and stroke certification for nurses while remaining current on research, standards of care and medications. The hospital must also conduct data tracking and performance measurement on every single stroke patient for monthly reporting to the Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Memorial’s ongoing efforts to educate the public about stroke recognition and prevention include hosting community forums, providing information through the hospital website and making speakers available for group presentations. A dedicated stroke center and neuro services information phone line is also planned.

The hospital is also developing stroke care partnerships with other smaller, non-certified hospitals and providing stroke education to emergency medical services providers to ensure that proper stroke care can begin even before patients get to the hospital, Mr. Brockway said.

“Our goal is to continue to be the regional destination and referral center for stroke care,” Mr. Brockway said.