BOSTON, August 9, 2023 — In a monumental step toward improving outcomes for stroke patients, Gov. Maura Healey signed a $56 billion budget Wednesday that will ensure people experiencing the most severe strokes are transported to hospitals capable of providing them with care that could save their lives and prevent disability.
In Massachusetts, emergency medical services are required by law to transport stroke patients to the closest hospital, regardless of the severity of the stroke. Unfortunately, some of the most severe strokes require procedures that certain hospitals do not provide.
The budget signed by Healey directs the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in the next 180 days to create a tiered system for transporting patients to hospitals that have various designations for providing stroke care. This would empower emergency medical services to transport patients experiencing severe strokes to hospitals capable of providing them with the most advanced treatments, regardless of the hospital’s location.
Dr. Lester Y. Leung, a volunteer medical expert for the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, praised Healey and the state Legislature for their commitment to ensuring Massachusetts remains a leader in the field of stroke care.
“Every minute counts when you’re having a stroke. Rapid identification and treatment reduce the chances of having lasting disability from a stroke of any severity or dying from a major stroke,” said Leung, a neurologist and the director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Tufts Medical Center. “Our state’s emergency medical service professionals can perform very well at identifying and triaging patients with stroke. This legislation empowers them to bring people with a stroke to the right place to get the right treatment at the right time.”
Stroke occurs when a blood vessel to or in the brain either becomes blocked or bursts, preventing blood and oxygen from reaching the brain. Treatment to quickly restore blood flow to the brain is essential to improve outcomes and survival.
Patients experiencing the most severe strokes may require rapid treatment with clot-busting medication or mechanical clot removal. Studies have shown that patients treated at hospitals capable of performing these procedures were more likely to be discharged home or to rehabilitation centers compared to patients treated elsewhere.
Stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in Massachusetts, claiming the lives of 2,272 people in 2020, the most recent year in which data is available. Nationwide, stroke accounted for one of every 21 deaths.
About the American Stroke Association
The American Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from stroke — the No. 2 cause of death in the world and a leading cause of serious disability. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat stroke. The Dallas-based association officially launched in 1998 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit stroke.org.
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