News release: MDH encourages Minnesota hospitals to get stroke-ready designation

News Release
May 14, 2014

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MDH encourages Minnesota hospitals to get stroke-ready designation

New Minnesota Stroke System will ensure faster, better care

The Minnesota Department of Health is encouraging Minnesota hospitals to seek a new stroke-ready designation as part of National Stroke Awareness Month this May.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in Minnesota, accounting for about 2,000 deaths annually. Minnesota hospitals treat more than 11,000 strokes each year.

In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature authorized the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to designate hospitals in Minnesota as "stroke hospitals." The designations from lowest to highest level of stroke care are Acute Stroke Ready Hospitals, Primary Stroke Centers, and Comprehensive Stroke Centers.

"When it comes to stroke, time lost is brain lost," said MDH Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. "That is why it is so crucial that all Minnesota hospitals are ready to deliver high-quality stroke care close to home." It is important for Minnesotans to know how to spot a stroke fast and call 9-1-1. You can recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke by remembering F.A.S.T.

F – facial droop/numbness, A – arm weakness, S – speech difficulty, and T – time to call 9-1-1.

Currently, 17 Minnesota hospitals have stroke designations from national organizations including recognition as a Comprehensive Stroke Center (CSC) or Primary Stroke Center (PSC). The new Minnesota law creates state-based designations that even smaller hospitals can achieve.

"We believe every hospital in the state, no matter how small, can achieve this designation and demonstrate its ability to stabilize stroke patients and administer life-saving medications," Ehlinger said. Nearly one in three Minnesota stroke victims first receive care at a small, rural hospital. In addition, more than one-third of Minnesotans live more than 60 minutes away from a Primary Stroke Center. These facts highlight the importance of smaller hospitals becoming designated stroke-ready.

Windom Area Hospital in Windom is one of many hospitals seeking the Acute Stroke Ready Hospital designation. Administrator Gerri Burmeister stressed that her hospital is seeking the designation to improve operations and raise community awareness about the hospital's stroke care. "When one of our community members recognizes the signs of a stroke, we want that person to know we are prepared to take care of them with the Gold Standard of stroke care," Burmeister said.

The stroke-ready designation will mean that a hospital is equipped to evaluate, stabilize and provide emergency care to patients with acute stroke symptoms. For example, a stroke-ready hospital always has a stroke team available, has a CT scanner onsite and can administer a key clot-dissolving drug called tPA. The stroke hospital designation process is the principal component of the Minnesota Stroke System. This statewide stroke system and designation criteria were developed by the Minnesota Acute Stroke System Council, convened by MDH and the American Heart Association (AHA) from March 2011 to December 2012. This voluntary stakeholder group developed criteria and provided input into the development of a statewide system.


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications