Washington, N.C. – ECU Health Beaufort Hospital – a campus of ECU Health Medical Center has been designated as a primary stroke center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart/Stroke Association, recognizing the hospital’s preparedness and expertise to care for stroke patients. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the state, resulting in more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease. With this designation, all ECU Health hospitals are equipped to provide advanced stroke care in communities across eastern North Carolina.
“Stroke certification from The Joint Commission represents ECU Health Beaufort’s commitment to provide high-quality stroke care to not only patients experiencing stroke symptoms, but to all of our patients,” said Debra Hernandez, president of ECU Health Beaufort. “We are proud of being designated a primary stroke center. The commitment and diligent work of team members across all levels and services made this a reality.”
As a primary stroke center, ECU Health Beaufort can treat and stabilize patients experiencing an acute stroke and care for more complex patients. As part of stroke readiness by all hospitals in the ECU health system, this certification is symbolic of a comprehensive stroke network capable of meeting the needs of all patients across eastern North Carolina.
“Achieving stroke certification for all nine hospitals has been our goal since launching an intentional focus on improving stroke care in eastern North Carolina seven years ago,” said Barry Bunn, chief of medical staff and regional medical director of emergency services, ECU Health. “At the start of this process, ECU Health began a pathway of certifying all of the ECU Health hospitals with some level of stroke certification by the Joint Commission. Stroke certified hospitals were prevalent west of I-95, but there were few certified hospitals in the eastern part of the state. Now, we can proudly say that patients across the region will have access to high-quality stroke care, regardless of where they live.”
Because time is one of the most important factors in treating stroke, it is vitally important to provide stroke care close to home. ECU Health Beaufort’s stroke certification increases proximity to quality care in the Washington area, which reduces the risk of mortality, permanent brain damage and other side effects including memory loss, difficulty speaking and potential paralysis.
During the certification process, ECU Health Beaufort was evaluated on performance measures in stroke care, including education for patients and families on stroke risk factors and recognizing symptoms of stroke. Other performance measures included staff education on stroke protocols and the appropriate prescription of medications to address stroke risk factors such as elevated cholesterol and blood pressure.
The severity and likelihood of having a stroke in North Carolina is significantly higher than the rest of the country as a whole. Eastern North Carolina is at the center of many strokes, often called the buckle of the stroke belt. North Carolina is about 8 percent worse for stroke mortality than the national average, and in eastern North Carolina, that risk is even greater.
“With all hospitals in the ECU Health system now stroke certified, a patient will be offered life-saving care regardless of the patient’s proximity to any of ECU Health’s hospitals and depending upon what additional treatments are needed, can be transported to a location with more extensive services when the patient is stabilized,” said Jay Briley, president of ECU Health Community Hospitals. “This system-wide stroke certification helps fulfill ECU Health’s mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.”