L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital part of pilot program

Published 3:08 pm Friday, September 6, 2013

Stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disability in the United States, and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has set out to take a more proactive approach in eliminating the problem before it can fully develop.

The ADPH and the Office of Emergency Medical Services have collaborated to introduce the Southeast Regional Pilot Acute Stroke System (SRPASS) to 18 Alabama counties, including Butler County.

SRPASS allows for accelerated stroke treatment within hours of developing symptoms via a network of facilities specifically equipped to deliver timely treatment.

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L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital was recently added to the list of more than a dozen other participating hospitals ranked in efficiency from Level I to III, with Level I facilities being the most efficient.

“We will be a Level III hospital, and Baptist South and Jackson Hospital in Montgomery are level two because they have more services and can take care of sicker patients,” said L.V. Stabler CEO Connie Nicholas.

“They let us join in, and the EMS has been notified that they can bring patients here and that we do have what it takes to take care of those patients in a timely manner.”

The strength of SRPASS lies in its efficiency and convenience, allowing responders to quickly determine the type and severity of a patient’s stroke.

Strokes are largely divided into three different categories — ischemic, hemorrhagic and transient ischemic attacks (often called “mini strokes”) — with ischemic strokes accounting for the vast majority of all cases.

Ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots and can oftentimes be treated or completely reversed with the usage of a certain drug, called a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), if applied fast enough.

“It’s the ability to rapidly triage (patients) so they can be evaluated more timely to determine if they’re appropriate for tPA therapy that’s most useful,” Nicholas said.

“And then there’s a computerized system so that we’ll know what hospitals are available to take patients that need to be transferred without even having to pick up a telephone.  They can look at the computer and know who’s accepting patients.”

Southeast Alabama is the first region in the state to adopt the system.

After the pilot program has proven successful, the ADPH plans to initiate the service on a statewide basis to ensure that patients experiencing stroke symptoms are transported to the nearest facility with the necessary resources to care for them.

Nicholas said that she believes the new system will quickly prove an advantage to residents of Butler County.

“I think it’s going to expedite them getting more timely diagnoses and treatment, and also the patients that need to be transferred somewhere else will also be expedited,” Nicholas said.

“So I think it’s going to positively impact us because the more timely you can get treatment, the better the patient’s prognosis is.”