Dr. Mauricio Concha
Bi-County Area Boasts Six Joint Commission Stroke Centers
Some healthcare providers in Manatee and Sarasota counties may believe that all hospitals have similar stroke programs, albeit in varying degrees, but unless medical personnel are focused on cardiology, neurology or a surgical specialty, they may not know how rich the bi-county area is with designated primary stroke centers capable of providing advanced emergency care for the average stroke.
All total, six hospitals in both counties are Joint Commission-specially designated stroke centers, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. That’s exceptionally good news for the area’s nearly 700,000 residents, representing roughly 3 percent of Florida’s total population. One of four residents in Manatee and Sarasota counties is 65 or older, according to the latest statistics available from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Of the state’s 17 Comprehensive Stroke Centers signifying advanced specialists and treatments to treat sicker patients with more complicated strokes, Sarasota Memorial Hospital is the sole facility in the bi-county area—and the only one south of St. Petersburg on Florida’s West Coast.
“If stroke victims miss that 3-hour window or are not eligible for the clot-dissolving therapy due to other reasons, there are more advanced treatments available at Sarasota Memorial’s Comprehensive Stroke Center,” said Mauricio Concha, MD, stroke neurologist and medical director of Sarasota Memorial’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.
Studies reflect that one of three stroke patients with complex stroke types, severe deficits or multiple organs affected may benefit from the higher level of care provided in comprehensive stroke centers. One particular study showed how in-hospital death rates were reduced nearly 50 percent when patients had access to highly trained stroke teams and advanced endovascular treatments.
Sarasota Memorial maintains participation in clinical trials and provides advanced techniques, including intra-arterial and endovascular techniques not available at many other hospitals, to extract blood clots in the brain and repair cerebrovascular abnormalities when standard therapies are not effective or no longer safe to use. In rural areas, EMS helicopters transport patients directly from their home to Sarasota Memorial when advanced care is required.
Of Florida’s 114 Primary Stroke Centers, five are located in the bi-county area:
- Blake Medical Center in Bradenton;
- Doctors Hospital of Sarasota;
- Lakewood Ranch Medical Center in Bradenton;
- Manatee Memorial Hospital in Brandenton; and
- Venice Regional Medical Center in Venice.
Blake Medical Center was the first designated primary stroke center in Manatee County, with a neuroscience committee in place since circa 1988. In 2005, the group led the hospital to achieving the specialty designation.
“It was a long process that involved stroke team members from all areas of the hospital working together, including nurses, physicians, therapists, patients and family members,” said Maryellen Bond, RN, stroke coordinator for Blake Medical Center. “It was the right thing to do for our patients and our community. We’re continually reviewing new research and best practices to further improve the care we give to stroke patients, and our efforts have made a big difference to the patients we treat.”
In 2010, Blake Medical Center also achieved the American Stroke Association’s Target: Stroke Award.
“One of the things that sets us apart is how well we work with EMS. We allow them to call our Stroke Alert (Code 3) from the field, which mobilizes our team more quickly, saving valuable time—and brain cells—for our patients. We also do community education to help people recognize strokes and encourage them to call 9-1-1 immediately at the onset of symptoms,” said Bond, noting that only 5 percent of stroke victims nationwide seek stroke treatment on a timely basis because they unwittingly ignore minor symptoms. “Time lost is brain lost!”
Blake Medical Center also has the only inpatient rehabilitation center in Manatee County. “They do great work with stroke patients, helping them regain function,” said Bond. “This allows us to offer the full continuum of care in one place.”
Doctors Hospital of Sarasota has long been committed to the quality care of patients, especially stroke victims.
“Our culture of continuous improvement based on evidence-based medicine is demonstrated by our pursuit of care certifications and patient-centered programs,” said Melissa Morgan, spokesperson for Doctors Hospital. “That’s why we felt it was so important to pursue the Joint Commission Primary Stroke Center certification as well as the American Heart Association (AHA) Get with the Guidelines Award for stroke care. We achieved both of these distinctions in 2006, followed by increases in certification and award status over the following several years.”
In 2008, the Joint Commission upgraded Doctors Hospital designation to Advanced Primary Stroke Center. This year, the AHA bestowed the Sarasota private hospital with the Gold Plus Award for its Get with the Guidelines Program for stroke care; the Silver Award for heart failure, and the Joint Commission certified Doctors Hospital for Joint Replacement for Knee, Hip and Spinal Fusion.
“Our efforts to ensure that the residents of Sarasota County receive high quality, life-saving care hasn’t been limited to stroke,” said Morgan. “We’ll continue to seek out programs that are proven to improve patient outcomes and complement our mission of providing high quality patient care.”