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.

Just Posted

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Agassiz Agricultural Hall hosts COVID-19 vaccination clinics every Wednesday. District officials reported more than 300 doses are administered per week. (Adam Louis/Observer)
Walk-in COVID vaccine clinic scheduled for Wednesday

Walk-in appointments available while supplies last from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in March at the Hope Station House, showing support for preserving the 1916 building. (Photo/Christian Ward)
New reports breathe life into efforts to save the Hope Station House

The documents were presented to District of Hope Council at a meeting June 14

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Most Read