Remote stroke care saving lives

A recently launched stroke support service for country South Australians is having an immediate impact for patients at the state’s smallest and most remote hospitals.

The service, which is available to country patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, gives clinicians at 61 country hospitals rapid access to neurologists at metropolitan stroke units via phone and videoconferencing.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said, with this kind of all hours support, regional South Australians will have immediate access to the best stroke specialists in the State.

“Being able to access these services remotely has meant fewer country stroke patients are left significantly disabled or die from their stroke, and fewer are transferred to Adelaide, allowing more to be cared for closer to their family and friends at home,” Minister Wade said.

“I applaud our country clinicians and their counterparts at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre, for working closely together to make this service such a success.”

Bruce Martin, 53, suffered a stroke while working on a remote part of Yorke Peninsula in June and credits the service for saving his life.

“It was the strangest sensation, I really didn’t know what was happening and went straight to the nearest hospital,” Mr Martin said.

“Luckily for me, the staff at Yorketown Hospital made immediate contact with the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s stroke service, and I believe that saved my life.

“Because there was specialist support on hand immediately, I was transferred to the RAH and walked out of the stroke unit just four days later, with no ongoing affects.”

Royal Adelaide Hospital stroke specialist, Associate Professor Tim Kleinig, said so far, the service has helped 75 patients receive stroke care as quickly as possible.

“We know that when it comes to treating stroke, time is of the essence,” Associate Professor Kleinig said.

“Prompt expert assessment is needed to correctly make these urgent diagnoses and treatment decisions and this model of care ensures that happens regardless of where a patient lives.

“The videoconferencing allows neurologists to link into the country hospital emergency area, remotely examine the patient and help the local health care team determine the best course of treatment quicker than ever before.

“That can include tablets, a clot dissolving treatment given into an arm vein, or urgent transport by road or air to Adelaide for surgical clot removal.”

The most common symptoms of a stroke include sudden onset one-sided face, arm and leg weakness and difficulty speaking. Other signs can include loss of balance, loss of vision, dizziness, numbness, confusion and difficulty swallowing.

Anyone who feels they may be experiencing a stroke should call 000 immediately.

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