Danielle Cameron, clinical manager of 6 West at Kelowna General Hospital, is seen in the new stroke unit's rehabilitation activity centre.
Interior Health announced Monday eight beds have been set aside at Kelowna General Hospital for patients who have suffered a stroke. They're getting streamlined care in large, private rooms with better access to treatment.
"By having all the patients (centralized) in one place, we pick up a tremendous amount of efficiency by not having a therapist go to this ward or that ward," said Dr. John Falconer, a stroke neurologist.
"If I make a stroke round on six patients, I can do it in half an hour. Before it would take me 90 minutes."
The volume of stroke patients treated at KGH made the stroke-care unit feasible. Of the 70,000 people who arrive at Emergency each year, 5,000 of them come for strokes. Of those, 500 are severe enough to be admitted.
Until last Wednesday, their beds were scattered throughout the hospital in various wards. Now they're concentrated on the west side of the Centennial building's sixth floor, close to a central nursing station.
A hundred staff, including nurses, physiotherapists, dieticians and speech therapists, have received training to run the new unit. Patients are getting assessed sooner. They're treated to prevent blood clots from forming and mobilized so they can start rehabilitation sooner.
The gym features parallel bars, weight machines, a balance ball and reclining bicycle. Patients exercise to work on their balance, improve their strength and help them use a weak limb.
The new digs are a far cry from the old
system. Most stroke patients were placed on the 4B ward with oncology and respiratory patients.
"The physiotherapist would walk them down the hall or try to take them up â€¦ three stairs to get them up and down. None of that equipment really gets them going," said Falconer.
Stroke units improve patient outcomes and quality of life by 30 per cent. More lives are saved and patients go home sooner, he said.
A stroke happens when blood flow is interrupted to part of the brain. It may cause paralysis, speech impairment, loss of memory or death.
Most patients are 65 or older, but young people - even children - can be stricken. Last weekend, medical staff were treating people ages 21 and 34, Falconer said.
Patients typically stay in the unit for a week. Most are transferred to outpatient therapy for another three to six months.
People living between Vernon and Summerland benefit the most from the new unit because they live close enough to Kelowna to get there quickly. Penticton has two neurologists who look after stroke patients but the city lacks a dedicated unit.
"Small hospitals don't have the volume â€¦ to provide this advanced level of care," Falconer said.
Staff consulted with patients and their families before finalizing the unit's floor plan. They wanted larger rooms and hallways that could accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, Falconer said.
The hospital foundation contributed $20,000 toward staff training. Creating and operating the new unit didn't cost the health authority a dime. Staff picked up so many efficiencies, the changes pay for themselves, he said.