Georgetown Hospital System provides stroke care close to home

  • Friday, September 5, 2014


The numbers are grim. Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in South Carolina, and the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States.

Georgetown County ranks third in prevalence of stroke in the Palmetto State.

Simply put, South Carolina is the buckle of the stroke belt, which stretches from the Florida line up through Kentucky and where a diagnosis of diabetes, obesity and hypertension is practically an accepted norm.

Four years ago, recognizing that coordinated and timely stroke care was imperative for the community, Georgetown Hospital System issued a call to action.

The goal: Become an Advanced Primary Stroke Care Center certified by the Joint Commission, which sets standards for patient safety and quality of care for health care organizations nationwide.

That meant being the front line for stroke treatment, with a dedicated stroke care unit, and round-the-clock service for emergency care, brain imaging, lab work and treatment – all delivered by specially trained professions, and stroke education for the community.

The Board of Trustees approved the initiative in 2011 for both hospitals to work jointly toward certification. Within months, teams and work groups were mobilized.

All in all, more than 100 representatives from neurology, labs, emergency departments, marketing, staff development, case management, community health education, rehabilitation services, pharmacy, radiology, healthcare improvement and quality were recruited to advance the effort.

In June, the massive effort came to fruition: Both hospitals were awarded Advanced Primary Stroke Care Certification by the Joint Commission, but neither is stopping with that designation.

The team has already set goals for 2015 that expand community education and raise the standards for patient treatment.

So what does that mean for you?

There’s a saying in the medical community that “time is brain.”

A medical team has only a short amount of time – under three hours – to treat a patient’s stroke symptoms to maximize chances for recovery.

The Joint Commission certification means that we provide care quickly and consistently.

Treatment for stroke patients begins in the emergency department, with rapid diagnosis, time-sensitive testing and emergent neurology and then transitions into hospitalization and concludes with home care and physical therapy after discharge.

Moreover, our treatment and care are uniform and evidence-based, and as a participant in the Medical University of South Carolina’s Stroke Telemedicine Program, we have the technical capabilities to consult with MUSC specialists on cases.

This all translates into the ability to provide the best care to our community and better outcomes for our stroke patients, specifically avoiding or limiting the physical and emotional disability as well as mortality related to being a victim of stroke.

If you or someone you are with shows signs of a stroke, call 911 immediately. Remember the acronym, FAST, to recognize the symptoms.

• “F” stands for face. One side of the face is drooping;

• “A” stands for arm. An arm that drifts downward;

• “S” means speech. Slurred speech;

• “T” Time. Back to that phrase, “time is brain.” Call 911 immediately.

We want to be partners with you in stroke education and treatment.

We’re proud of our accomplishment, but most of all, we’re pleased for what this means for our community.

Dr. James M Principe is medical director of Eagle Hospital Physicians, Georgetown Hospital System.

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