Stroke patient transfers to Vancouver criticized

Delayed access to clot-busting drugs 'poor' care, Fraser Health review says

CT scan showing damage in the brain of a stroke victim.

Hospitals in Surrey, Abbotsford and New Westminster that are Fraser Health’s designated centres to treat stroke victims have so far failed to provide optimum care for them and redirect too many of those patients to Vancouver instead.

That’s one of the findings of a health ministry-ordered review of the health authority released earlier this month.

Many ischemic strokes can be effectively treated with clot-busting thrombolytic drugs, but time is of the essence – patients need to get to to stroke specialists within three to four hours for the treatment to be useful.

Too often, the review report said, those patients are diverted to Vancouver General Hospital instead of designated Fraser hospitals, adding extra delay when they should be treated in the region as quickly as possible.

The report said Royal Columbian Hospital has the expertise to treat those stroke victims but “capacity issues in the RCH emergency department make this site reluctant to accept more patient volume.”

Surrey Memorial Hospital’s ER and neurology departments haven’t embraced the use of thrombolytic drugs for stroke cases, it said, and Abbotsford Regional has made “some efforts” to meet its role as a designated site, but with “modest” results.

“This is poor patient care as it results in time delays to a treatment that is time-sensitive,” the review said of transfers to Vancouver.

Redirecting Fraser stroke patients to VGH worsens congestion there and demand on ambulance transfers, the report said, and means those patients must be transported back to Fraser later.

Fraser Health last year sent 135 stroke victims to VGH, some of them from as far away as Langley and Abbotsford.

Dr. Dave Williams, Fraser Health’s program medical director for medicine, said stroke services in the region are rapidly improving.

“We expect that number will be significantly reduced for this fiscal year because we have been able to build capacity at some of our sites,” he said.

Williams said he met ER doctors at Royal Columbian and resolved their concerns that the already congested hospital may be overwhelmed.

As a result, he said, RCH now is taking all stroke cases out of Eagle Ridge Hospital that were often being referred to Vancouver before.

A new stroke unit has opened at Surrey Memorial’s new critical care tower, he added.

Although it is still short of neurologists, more are being actively recruited.

“Abbotsford has actually made a lot of progress,” he said, adding four neurologists are in place there and the hospital is looking for a fifth to ensure round-the-clock coverage.

Recruitment is a challenge – the report notes neurologists specializing in stroke are concentrated in the Vancouver area.

Williams stressed anyone having stroke symptoms – such as facial droop, drift of the arm or speech problems – should call 911 immediately, even if the symptoms quickly stop.

The review also suggested too many Fraser region patients are treated for cardiac care at Vancouver Coastal hospitals, with less-than-ideal results.

About 25 per cent of angioplasties and 40 per cent of heart surgeries required by Fraser patients are performed at either VGH or St. Paul’s.

“There are significant wait time issues with an increasing number of patients exceeding the recommended wait time,” the review said.

Just Posted

The man who gave up law school to work in a homeless shelter

Joshua Medcalf is keynote speaker for 2018 Leadership Superconference at Langley Events Centre

Second Langley man found guilty in $6 million fraud

The co-accused in the Aggressive Roadbuilders fraud admitted his guilt in court.

Man who abducted and assaulted 11-year-old Langley girl has parole rules tightened

Brian Abrosimo made ‘inappropriate and sexualized’ comments

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

VIDEO: Langley-based Fraser Valley Fusion 2002A crowned champions in Oregon

Fastpitch team takes Triple Crown Sports Valley South 16U Tournament in Medford

Naked man jumping into Toronto shark tank a ‘premeditated’ stunt: official

The man swam in a tank at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

Allen died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses

Sockeye run in Shuswap expected to be close to 2014 numbers

Salute to the Sockeye on Adams River continues until Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Aldergrove policing focuses on safety, prevention

RCMP Cpl. Kurt Neuman’s October update from the Community Liaison office

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

Most Read