The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center recently achieved the Primary Stroke Center Designation from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and is currently the only VA in the state with that designation.
The designation places Charleston VA within the state’s stroke system network and identifies the facility as a provider of the spectrum of care to all stroke patients.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, part of your brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs and starts to die. During a stroke, 1.9 million brain cells die every minute treatment is delayed, so providing quality care for Veterans suspected of experiencing a stroke is a priority of Charleston VAMC.
“Our state is in the stroke belt—we are actually in the stroke buckle—with stroke being the third biggest killer in South Carolina,” said Charleston VAMC Stroke Program Coordinator Elizabeth Aprile.
Individuals in the states in the southeastern part of the United States who are identified as being in the stroke belt are twice as likely to experience a stroke than those who live elsewhere. Between Oct. 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, the Charleston VAMC evaluated 185 Veterans for stroke and treated 96 Veterans who suffered from a stroke.
To be approved by SCDHEC as a Primary Stroke Center, the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC Stroke Service engaged in a rigorous application process that evaluated their VA against benchmarks for multiple criteria, including:
- Designated and organized Stroke Team and Stroke Director
- Less than 10-minute response time to Brain Attacks in the ER and inpatient units
- Staff training
- VHA certification in stroke
- Active engagement in stroke prevention activities
The above criteria were evaluated along with other metrics that certify quality treatment of stroke patients. Charleston VA’s recent “Gold Plus” recognition by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, was part of the criteria evaluated during the application process—another top award for their Stroke Service in 2020.
“Our comprehensive stroke program is going above and beyond to care for our Veterans during critical episodes of care,” said Charleston VAMC Medical Center Director Scott Isaacks. “Congratulations to this team on their hard work to ensure that our Veterans get the best care.”