Stroke patient transfers to Vancouver criticized

Delayed access to clot-busting drugs 'poor' care, Fraser Health review says

CT scan showing damage in the brain of a stroke victim.

CT scan showing damage in the brain of a stroke victim.

Hospitals in Surrey, Abbotsford and New Westminster that are Fraser Health’s designated centres to treat stroke victims have so far failed to provide optimum care for them and redirect too many of those patients to Vancouver instead.

That’s one of the findings of a health ministry-ordered review of the health authority released earlier this month.

Many ischemic strokes can be effectively treated with clot-busting thrombolytic drugs, but time is of the essence – patients need to get to to stroke specialists within three to four hours for the treatment to be useful.

Too often, the review report said, those patients are diverted to Vancouver General Hospital instead of designated Fraser hospitals, adding extra delay when they should be treated in the region as quickly as possible.

The report said Royal Columbian Hospital has the expertise to treat those stroke victims but “capacity issues in the RCH emergency department make this site reluctant to accept more patient volume.”

Surrey Memorial Hospital’s ER and neurology departments haven’t embraced the use of thrombolytic drugs for stroke cases, it said, and Abbotsford Regional has made “some efforts” to meet its role as a designated site, but with “modest” results.

“This is poor patient care as it results in time delays to a treatment that is time-sensitive,” the review said of transfers to Vancouver.

Redirecting Fraser stroke patients to VGH worsens congestion there and demand on ambulance transfers, the report said, and means those patients must be transported back to Fraser later.

Fraser Health last year sent 135 stroke victims to VGH, some of them from as far away as Langley and Abbotsford.

Dr. Dave Williams, Fraser Health’s program medical director for medicine, said stroke services in the region are rapidly improving.

“We expect that number will be significantly reduced for this fiscal year because we have been able to build capacity at some of our sites,” he said.

Williams said he met ER doctors at Royal Columbian and resolved their concerns that the already congested hospital may be overwhelmed.

As a result, he said, RCH now is taking all stroke cases out of Eagle Ridge Hospital that were often being referred to Vancouver before.

A new stroke unit has opened at Surrey Memorial’s new critical care tower, he added.

Although it is still short of neurologists, more are being actively recruited.

“Abbotsford has actually made a lot of progress,” he said, adding four neurologists are in place there and the hospital is looking for a fifth to ensure round-the-clock coverage.

Recruitment is a challenge – the report notes neurologists specializing in stroke are concentrated in the Vancouver area.

Williams stressed anyone having stroke symptoms – such as facial droop, drift of the arm or speech problems – should call 911 immediately, even if the symptoms quickly stop.

The review also suggested too many Fraser region patients are treated for cardiac care at Vancouver Coastal hospitals, with less-than-ideal results.

About 25 per cent of angioplasties and 40 per cent of heart surgeries required by Fraser patients are performed at either VGH or St. Paul’s.

“There are significant wait time issues with an increasing number of patients exceeding the recommended wait time,” the review said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some of the hundreds of pounds of trash removed by divers last month from Abbotsford’s Walmsley Lake.(Henry Wang photo)
VIDEO: Divers remove 462 pounds of trash from Abbotsford lake

Walmsley Lake dive uncovers several tires, hundreds of drink containers and a tent

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
Harrison woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

A nurse prepares to vaccinate healthcare workers at a COVID-19 drive-thru immunization site in Coquitlam in this image supplied to the media by Fraser Health on March 8, 2021. (Fraser Health)
OPINION: 97-year-old Chilliwack man gets his COVID vaccination appointment

Call centre inundated with 1.7 million calls while there are just 50,000 folks over 90 in B.C.

Once again Fraser East is among the health service delivery areas with the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission in the province. (Datawrapper)
Fraser East sees third highest rate of COVID-19 cases in B.C.

The region is seeing a sustained increase in new COVID-19 cases

Once a star player with the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team, Kayli Sartori is moving into a new role coaching the next generation of Cascades. (UFV photo)
Chilliwack’s Kayli Sartori goes from court to coach with UFV basketball Cascades

Sartori is taking a new path as part of the U-Sports female basketball apprentice coaching program

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

Most Read