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The Tidelands Health Newsroom

Published on July 29, 2014

Georgetown Memorial, Waccamaw earn stroke center certification

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When you’re having a stroke, high-quality health care can be the difference between life and death. Now, patients throughout the Tidelands region have access to nationally recognized stroke care close to home.

Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Waccamaw Community Hospital have earned advanced certification as Primary Stroke Centers by the Joint Commission, the accrediting body for hospitals in the United States.

 “This certification is the highest level achieved by any hospital in the Palmetto State,” said Sandra Raynes, M.Ed., RN, who serves as Waccamaw’s director of nursing operations and who spearheaded the certification effort for both hospitals. “Certification as primary stroke centers signifies that our patients receive the latest stroke therapy in accordance with evidence-based guidelines established by the American Heart Association, the American Stroke Association and the Brain Attack Coalition.”

Georgetown County has the third-highest incidence of stroke in the state.  To raise awareness about the dangers of stroke and to care for the community, both hospitals offer stroke programs. Both Georgetown Memorial and Waccamaw have a dedicated stroke care unit, as well as round-the-clock services for emergency care, brain imaging, lab work and treatment -- all delivered by specially trained professionals. Waccamaw is home to the region’s only inpatient acute rehabilitation unit, where stroke patients receive intensive therapy to aid their recovery. In addition, both hospitals are partners in MUSC Health’s telestroke program, which provides 24-hour consultations with medical specialists, and classes on stroke prevention are offered to the community.

Dr. John Manning, a board-certified emergency physician and medical director at Georgetown Memorial, said the certifications are a major step forward in stroke care for the region.

“The Joint Commission certification means that care is provided quickly and consistently,” Dr. Manning said. “Treatment for stroke patients begins in the emergency department, with rapid diagnosis, time-sensitive testing and emergent neurology and then transitions into hospitalization and concludes, of course, with physical therapy after discharge, and we provide all that.”

Dr. James Principe, medical director of Waccamaw’s stroke center and medical director of Eagle Hospital Physicians, said the certification provides a structure for care and evaluation.

“Obtaining primary stroke center certification is a means of improving our delivery of uniform, evidence-based care to the potential stroke victims who are entrusted to us,” said Dr. Principe, who helped develop protocols for stroke care. “This all translates into the ability to provide the best care to our community and better outcomes for our stroke patients, specifically avoiding or limiting the physical and emotional disability as well as mortality related to being a victim of stroke.”

The stroke certifications are the fourth such recognition for Waccamaw Community and the third for Georgetown Memorial. Both hospitals have earned Joint Commission certification for hip and knee replacement, and Waccamaw has also achieved childbirth certification. 

H. McRoy Skipper Jr., chairman of the Georgetown Hospital System board of trustees, said Joint Commission certification is particularly meaningful because it is a voluntary process.

“Leaders at both hospitals, realizing the need in our community for excellent stroke care, sought this out,” Skipper said. “It is entirely voluntary, and it is a reflection of our belief at Georgetown Hospital System that delivering the best care and the right care is the right thing to do for our patients.”

Founded in 1951, the Joint Commission sets standards for patient safety and quality of care. More than 20,000 health care organizations use Joint Commission standards to guide how they administer care and continuously improve performance.

The Joint Commission’s criteria for achieving a disease-specific certification are based on a program’s ability to demonstrate the use of clinical practice guidelines, collect and submit data on specific performance indicators and to demonstrate evidence-based practices in the delivery of care to a certain patient population.

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By the Numbers

Georgetown County ranks third in South Carolina in prevalence for stroke.

Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in South Carolina.

Strokes are the fourth-leading cause of death in the nation .

One in eight adults in South Carolina has been told by a physician that  he or she diabetes.

One in six African-American adults has diabetes.

Two of every three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

(Data provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control)

Stroke Symptoms

The acronym FAST has been developed by the National Stroke Association to warn people of potential stroke symptoms.

Face -- drooping or numb

Arm  -- Tingling or numb

Speech --  Slurred, inability to speak clearly

Time  --  To call 911

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Tidelands Health is the largest health care provider in Georgetown and Horry counties. With three hospitals and nearly 50 outpatient locations that stretch from Andrews to North Myrtle Beach, Tidelands Health is improving lives across the Tidelands region.