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November 15, 2009
Los Angeles County to implement stroke center hospital network
By Bethania Palma Markus
WHITTIER, Calif. — The county is creating a network of hospitals specialized to care for stroke victims, and Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital is one of the first on-board, officials said.
Come Monday, PIH will be part of a nine-hospital, countywide system specially equipped to care for stroke patients from the moment they are brought into the emergency room until they are released, officials said.
"We are very proud," said Judy Pugach, registered nurse and vice president of quality and risk management at PIH. "This is really about the quality of care we provide to the community."
PIH will be the only approved stroke center in eastern Los Angeles County, but officials said more will soon come online.
"We're launching with these first nine, but expect between 20 to 50 in the next two years in the county," said Dr. Jeffrey Saver, director of the UCLA Stroke Center. "We anticipate steadily rolling it out throughout the county."
PIH will start receiving the majority of stroke patients from the Whittier area, including possibly Downey, Lynwood and El Monte, said Joan Rolland, registered nurse administrator of emergency and disaster services at PIH.
"We'll probably have about 10 more patients for the first month, which is very doable," she said. The emergency room has recently been expanded and has 54 beds, she said.
Early intervention is key to positive outcomes for stroke patients, doctors said.
"The reason is to get the patient in initially to these hospitals that can provide a continuum of care, rather than transfer them to other facilities," said Dr. William Koenig, medical director for the L.A. County Emergency Medical Services Agency.
Paramedics in L.A. County have received upgraded training to recognize strokes in the field, Koenig said.
Stroke patients will only be taken to stroke centers if they are less than 30 minutes away and if they don't have other immediately life-threatening complications, officials said. Otherwise they will be taken to the nearest hospital.
Patients at stroke centers will be received by stroke teams, consisting of a neurologist and registered nurses specializing in strokes, Saver said.
The patients will be rapidly diagnosed and treated throughout their hospital stay, instead of being transferred to facilities with the capacity to deal with strokes, he said.
"These types of interventions have been shown to have major impacts on patients' outcomes," Saver said.
Strokes are responsible for a large number of deaths and disability in L.A. County, officials said, and time is an important factor in survival and positive outcome.
Other than PIH the nearest stroke center for the San Gabriel Valley is Glendale Adventist Medical Center, but Koenig said the system is expected to grow.
Officials from Citrus Valley Health Care Partners, which runs three hospital campuses in the east San Gabriel Valley, said no decision has been reached whether they will pursue becoming accredited stroke centers.
"We just started looking into it and finding out what all the different steps are," said Tina Rumjahn, executive director of the heart center at West Covina's Queen of the Valley campus. "We haven't made any decision at this point."
Huntington Hospital in Pasadena is awaiting accreditation, officials said.
"We are currently awaiting our approval," said Andrea Stradling, Huntington Hospital spokeswoman. "We are hoping to hear by the end of the year."
Until then, ambulances in areas without a stroke center in a 30-minute radius will take patients to the nearest hospital, officials said.
"The start (of this program) is a milestone for the care of stroke patients in (the Los Angeles area)," Saver said. "This culmination of years of groundwork will result in saving lives for many Los Angeles patients."
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