Thursday, February 5, 2015

Legislation takes aim at Kentucky’s high stroke rate

 FRANKFORT – A key state Senate committee approved legislation on Wednesday designed to improve care for stroke victims in rural areas of Kentucky and promote preventive care for the deadly cardiovascular disease.

The goal of the Senate Bill 10 is to continue the development of a stroke system of care in Kentucky that facilitates timely access to an appropriate level of care for stroke patients, said Sen. Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz, who is sponsoring the bill with Sen. David P. Givens, R-Greensburg. Humphries testified before the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare.

It builds on 2010 legislation, championed by former state Senate President David Williams, which required the state to recognize certified primary stroke centers. The 2010 legislation was introduced after a study showed Kentucky had the 12th highest rate for strokes in the nation with 2,500 people dying every year.

Humphries said SB10 would add comprehensive stroke centers and acute stroke-rated hospitals to the state’s existing primary stroke centers designation program, formalize the state’s responsibility for what to do with the information and require local emergency medical service providers to develop pre-hospital assessment, treatment and transport protocols for suspected stroke patients.

He said the goal was to bring quality care for stroke victims to every part of the state, not just in the metropolitan areas.

Tonya Chang, advocacy director at the American Heart Association in Lexington, testified in support of the legislation. She said the number of primary stroke centers has risen to 21from 12 in 2010. In addition, she said there are two comprehensive stroke centers, one at both the universities of Louisville and Kentucky.

“All this legislation really does is update that program (2010 legislation),” Chang said. “There are two new categories of certification that are available since that legislation was originally passed.”

She said the additional certification is conducted by third-party nationally recognized entities, voluntary on behalf of the hospitals and paid for by the hospitals.

The benefit to Kentuckians is the certification verifies hospitals are capable of high quality, evidence-based treatment of stroke patients, Chang said. She added the certification programs also require hospitals to do community outreach about stroke prevention.

“Time loss is brain loss for stroke victims,” Chang said. “There are life-saving drugs available but many hospitals do not administer them. Primary stroke centers do. It really makes a difference between a full recovery and future disability.”

The bill now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.