Telehealth boosts access to stroke treatment in NSW

Northern Rivers residents will now have access to the latest in stroke treatment following the announcement that the state-wide Telestroke Service has launched at Lismore Base Hospital.

Stroke Foundation has welcomed today’s announcement saying it will save lives.

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan said telehealth was being relied on more than ever in this time of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the NSW Telestroke service demonstrated the technology’s value extends well beyond the current pandemic.

“NSW is home to Australia’s stroke hot spots, with those in regional areas at highest risk,” Ms McGowan said.

“This telestroke service is much needed. It will have an enormous impact by removing barriers to time-critical stroke treatment that saves lives and reduces lifelong disability.

“When a stroke strikes, it kills up to 1.9 million brain cells per minute, but FAST treatment can stop this damage.”

Regional Australians are 19 percent more likely to experience stroke than people in our cities. Regional Australians are also more likely to die or be left with a serious disability as a result of stroke because of limited access to best-practice treatment and care — most stroke specialists are located in metropolitan areas. The telehealth service and treatment pathway will remove this geographical barrier.

The extended service will see consultant stroke physicians available 24/7 and enable clinicians in rural and outer metropolitan areas to seek expert assistance on quick diagnosis and appropriate treatment for their patients. This rapid, specialist advice will be delivered using contemporary technology and will be critical in saving lives and reducing the potential for disability. Over the next three years, up to 23 rural and regional hospitals will be added to the service, which is already available at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital and Port Macquarie Base Hospital.

Stroke Foundation NSW State Manager Rhian Paton-Kelly said it was fitting the Telestroke Service was launched following National Stroke Week (August 31 – September 6) which encouraged everyone to learn the signs of stroke.

“The Telehealth Service will ensure people of the Northern Rivers have access to the best in stroke treatment, but to benefit patients must reach hospital,” Ms Paton-Kelly said.

“The first step in ensuring better outcomes from stroke is getting to hospital quickly, and that means recognising the F.A.S.T. (Face. Arms. Speech. Time) signs and calling triple zero (000) straight away.

“I urge everyone to learn the F.A.S.T. message and share it with your friends, family and colleagues.”

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