Stroke Care Action Plan launched to improve medical response


Flanders’ health minister has launched a plan to ensure that patients don’t have far to go for quality care following a stroke

Recognise the symptoms

Every day, 60 people in Belgium have a stroke. It is the third-leading cause of death in the country, after cancer and heart failure. Survivors of a stroke, meanwhile, are often left partially paralysed, unable to speak or understand language or with vision problems. Sometimes these effects last for the rest of the patient’s life.

Following a period of consultations with local and international experts, Flemish health minister Jo Vandeurzen has launched the Stroke Care Action Plan as well as a public prevention campaign.

“The Stroke Care Action Plan focuses on a quick response following a stroke and on a successful rehabilitation strategy,” said Vandeurzen. “This plan will ensure that hospitals can share information quickly and efficiently. And the campaign will help the public recognise a stroke when it happens. The Stroke Care Action Plan puts us in the same league with other European regions that excel in stroke care.”

A stroke happens when there is an interruption of blood flow to the brain, resulting in cell death. While strokes can occur at any age, a majority strike people who are over the age of 65. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.

Early detection and immediate medical intervention are crucial to limiting the effects of a stroke, which can be temporary. The Flemish government website describes the signs of a stroke.

Three levels of stroke care

The Stroke Action Plan includes a hospital’s obligation to be able to provide immediate care to stroke patients. While all hospitals must be able to recognise and provide first-response care, some hospitals will have specialised stroke care units, including advanced imaging. Some of these should be home to dedicated teams of multi-disciplinary neurovascular specialists.

The government will apply a number system to every hospital, which will fall under S0, S1 or S2, depending on its level of expertise and services. Hospital staff, physicians and paramedics would then know which hospital is the best choice to receive a stroke patient. It could be that, while one hospital is two kilometres closer, another has an S2 team and is therefore a better choice, depending on the patient’s symptoms.

Rehabilitation and chronic care options are also part of the Stroke Action Plan. This includes an assessment of options within the stroke care network and improving options where necessary. The idea is to make sure that no patient has to travel too far to get the care needed following a stroke.

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