Hospital named primary stroke care center


Coleen Santa Ana


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, December 10, 2018

An international quality assurance and accreditation firm has recognized Sentara Albemarle Medical Center for its management of stroke patients by designating the hospital a Primary Stroke Center.

DNV GL Healthcare, a branch of Norway-based DNV GL, certified Sentara Albemarle as a Primary Stroke Center following an on-site review in September, the hospital announced recently. According to Sentara, it's the first time the hospital, formerly known as Albemarle Hospital, has won the distinction in its 104-year history.

The certification validates the hospital's abilities, but also shows providers and staff are dedicated to high-quality health care for northeastern North Carolina, Sentara President Coleen Santa Ana said in the release.

“Attaining a certification of this magnitude required commitment from across the entire hospital to develop and execute a new program, and we will continue to aim toward the highest levels of performance,” Santa Anna said in the release.

There are several key steps the hospital has taken to improve stroke care since 2016, the release explains. It implemented “tele-stroke technology” that allows quick contact between a patient and a neurologists, as well as new stroke protocols and training to provide a rapid, hospitalwide response to patients showing signs of a stroke. That allows a “stroke alert team” to immediately provide care, the hospital said.

Additionally, the hospital has worked to diagnose ischemic strokes — strokes caused by blood clots or otherwise reduced blood flow to the brain — and provide a “clot-busting” medication within an hour of a patient's arrival at the hospital. The American Stroke Association recommends that standard, the hospital said.

Sentara Albemarle also has added a nurse practitioner and stroke coordinator to the hospital's work force, and partnered closely with Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Services to streamline care for stroke patients transported by the ambulance service.

In Sentara’s release, EMS Director Jerry Newell offers his “kudos” to the hospital, noting EMS and Sentara Albemarle have worked to deliver “big-town stroke care at our community hospital.”

The release notes that the Primary Stroke Center designation is the second-highest of three stroke certifications DNV-GL can award. The lowest level is Acute Stroke Ready, which can help stabilize patients for transport. Primary Stroke Centers can manage stroke patients' care and only need to transport them for “neurosurgical emergencies.”

The highest-level certification is Comprehensive Stroke Center, which applies to hospitals that provide the most advanced stroke care. The closest Comprehensive Stroke Center to Sentara Albemarle is Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, according to Sentara’s release.

The certifications are also based on standards set by the American Stroke Association and Brain Attack Coalition, the release notes.

In a follow-up email, Sentara Albemarle spokeswoman Annya Soucy said the hospital isn’t seeking to become a Comprehensive Stroke Center, but will continue working to improve care for stroke patients.

The hospital’s initiatives include speeding up administration of an anti-clotting medication and teaching community members a mnemonic device, “BEFAST,” for spotting strokes. BEFAST refers to monitoring for impairment to a person’s balance, eyes, face, arms, speech, and the time that has elapsed since the person’s normal functioning.

Citing statistics from the National Stroke Association and the N.C. Stroke Association, Sentara Albemarle’s release said strokes kill nearly 130,000 people nationwide every year. Coastal North Carolina is also part of the “stroke buckle” where the death rate from strokes is “twice the national average,” the release adds.