Bridging deadly regional divide telestroke set to save and improve lives

The Stroke Foundation has welcomed the Australian Labor Party commitment to establish, if elected, an $11.9 million National Telestroke Network.

The network will harness the latest in telehealth technology to ensure all Australians have a fair go at surviving and living well after stroke.

Stroke Foundation Clinical Council Chair Professor Bruce Campbell said the network would transform emergency stroke treatment for regional and rural Australians.

“Advancements in stroke treatments mean, for many Australians, stroke no longer inevitably leads to death and disability. However, regional and rural Australians have been missing out on these treatments as most of our stroke specialists are located in cities,” Professor Campbell said.

“A national telestroke network will remove geographical barriers to these stroke treatments, it will save lives and boost the capacity of our regional doctors to treat stroke.

“Surviving and living well after stroke will no longer be determined by your postcode.”

Under the network, neurologists would provide around the clock support to regional clinicians. Specialists will be available to review a patient’s brain scan via computer software remotely, then provide diagnosis, timely treatment advice and assist with rapid transfer to city hospitals for more advanced treatments where appropriate.

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan said time was critical when treating stroke.

“Time saved in treating stroke is brain saved,” Ms McGowan said.

“When a stroke strikes, it attacks up to 1.9 million brain cells a minute. Treatments can stop the damage, but they require specialist diagnosis and must be given quickly.”

Regional Australians are 19 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than people in metropolitan areas. Currently, regional Australians are also more likely to die or have a significant disability as a result of stroke because of limited access to specialist stroke treatment and care.

The establishment of a National Telestroke Network will strengthen, connect and build on the well-established Victorian telestroke network, as well as pilot projects underway in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. It will deliver all Australians access to emergency stroke treatment when and where they need it.

Ms McGowan also welcomed the inclusion of F.A.S.T. community education and clinical registry funding to support the roll out of the telestroke network, ensuring its benefits were maximised.

In response to the Australian Labor Party announcement, Stroke Foundation has called for cross-party support for a National Telestroke Network to ensure all Australians have the best opportunity to survive and live well after stroke.

“Stroke is one of this country’s biggest killers and a leading cause of disability. Yet, it can be prevented, and it can be treated,” Ms McGowan said.

“The establishment of a National Telestroke Network is a vital step towards changing the state of stroke in this country.”

The development of a National Telestroke Network was a key action highlighted in the development and draft of the National Heart and Stroke Action Plan. Work is underway to finalise the Action Plan, identifying gaps in the current health system and prioritise actions that can be taken to reduce the toll of stroke and heart disease in our communities.

Labor’s plan:

$11.9 million to build a Telestroke Network including:

$3 million for the Australian Stroke Clinical Registry to ensure the Network’s data is captured

$600,000 for education programs to teach the community about the F.A.S.T signs of stroke

For more on the state of stroke in regional Australia.

Stroke facts

One stroke every nine minutes.

56,000 strokes in Australia this year.

475,000 stroke survivors living in the community.

Regional Australians 19 percent more likely to suffer a stroke, and are also more likely to die or be left with a significant disability as a result of stroke.

It is estimated 20 strokes a day are impacting Australians of working age.

By 2050, it is estimated the number of strokes experienced by Australians will double to 132,500 and there will be around one million stroke survivors living in our community.

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