Collaboration taken to heart
October 1, 2012
Camrose hospital uses ‘progressive model’ for cardiac, stroke care
Story by Colin Zak; Photo Courtesy Covenant Health
Many cardiac patients quickly learn that heart problems and stroke go hand-in-hand.
Alice Richardson, 77, discovered that for herself in November 2010.
“The doctors told me there was a problem with my heart rate back in 2008. I knew I wasn’t doing well; I couldn’t do anything without getting tired,” she says.
“Then I had my stroke.”
Richardson was brought to St. Mary’s Hospital in Camrose, about 70 km northwest of her home in Killam. There, she was given a tissue plasminogen activators (TPA), better known as a ‘clot buster’ drug. It dissolved the blood clot in her brain and saved her life.
Since then, she’s made regular visits to the Heart Failure and Stroke Prevention Clinics at St. Mary’s for follow-up.
“It’s great that the clinics are under the same roof, and it gives me peace of mind that the heart and stroke staff work together,” Richardson adds.
St. Mary’s combined its stroke program and cardiac clinics into a single unit in 2008. The unit has since grown to include a Heart Failure Clinic, Stroke Prevention Clinic and an atrial fibrillation program for individuals with an irregular heartbeat.
It’s a progressive model – and Alberta Health Services (AHS) has taken notice.
“Heart and stroke have the same risk factors and use the same resources, so it was a natural match for us,” says registered nurse Cheryl King, heart and stroke lead clinician at St. Mary’s Hospital, which is operated by Covenant Health.
“For our stroke patients, we take an ultrasound of their heart and often recognize they also suffer from heart failure. In many heart patients, we find they are at risk of having a stroke. These are conditions we wouldn’t have otherwise identified.”
Always looking to expand its cardiac/stroke program, St. Mary’s is showing no signs of slowing down. The unit has grown over the years and now includes two neurologists, a cardiologist, three registered nurses, a pharmacist, and a dietitian– all working with both cardiac and stroke patients.
“That’s the wave of the future – combining resources and knowledge. That’s what’s best for patients and will ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients coming into the hospital after a stroke, heart attack or any other cardiac event,” says Dr. Blair O’Neill, Senior Medical Director of the Cardiovascular Health and Stroke Strategic Clinical Network.
Established by AHS, Strategic Clinical Networks (SCNs) are provincewide teams of health care professionals, researchers, community leaders, patients and policy makers.
Each SCN is working to reshape health care in different areas of health that will enhance the patient journey, improve outcomes and standardize care delivery across the province.
“This is a very exciting time for cardiovascular and stroke care in Alberta,” O’Neill says.
“We now have the opportunity to shape the way we deliver care to patients in Alberta, not just in urban areas, but in smaller centres and rural areas as well. St. Mary’s has proven this model works.”