Ottawa

Access to rehab after strokes remains issue in Ottawa, report finds

Ottawa stroke patients have survival rates on par with the rest of the province but are less likely to get rehabilitative care and must wait longer to get it, according to new research from the Ontario Stroke Network.

Ottawa has improved its stroke mortality rate, but still below provincial standard in rehabilitative care

Ottawa has several hospitals, including the Ottawa Hospital General Campus pictured here, but lacks a dedicated stroke unit, a new report says. (Google Streetview)

Ottawa stroke patients have survival rates on par with the rest of the province but are less likely to get rehabilitative care and must wait longer to get it, according to new research from the Ontario Stroke Network.

According to the annual OSN Stroke Report Card, the risk of dying within 30 days of a brain attack was 10.6 per 1000 people in 2015. That's more than a ten-per-cent drop from the previous year and researchers say that means 60 fewer adults are dying annually from strokes.

Ottawa is getting more stroke patients into rehab but more needs to be done."Ruth Hall, Ontario Stroke Network researcher

But while Eastern Ontario can boast it has the same mortality rate, hospitals in the Champlain LHIN are having trouble keeping up with other regions when it comes to acute stroke care and rehabilitation.

"Ottawa is getting more stroke patients into rehab, but more work needs to be done," said researcher Ruth Hall, one of the authors of the report.

In 2015, 30 percent of patients were admitted to inpatient rehabilitation after being discharged from acute care. That's a three per cent increase from the previous year, but well below the provincial benchmark of 45 per cent.

Hall says the deficiency can be directly linked to the region's lack of centralized care for stroke patients. Less than two per cent of patients in the Champlain LHIN get treated in a stroke unit, while provincially 72 percent of patients are treated in stroke units.

No defined stroke unit, author says

"Ottawa does not have what meets the definition of a dedicated stroke unit," said Hall.

OSN defines a stroke unit as "a geographical unit with identifiable co-located beds occupied by stroke patients on average 75 [per cent] of the time." The unit has a dedicated inter-professional team consisting of nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech language pathologists. 

"Patients receive better care management and treatment of strokes and get admitted into rehabilitation faster if there is a dedicated unit."

Stroke rehab like that pictured in this 2013 file photo takes longer to access in eastern Ontario than the rest of the province, the report found. (Jesse Johnston/Canadian Press)
In the capital region, it takes a stroke patient roughly 14 days to get access to physiotherapy in hospital, more than double the time of the provincial average.

Of the 20 categories of care the OSN lists, hospitals in the Champlain LHIN received failing grades in seven areas, acceptable marks in six areas and only one exemplary mark. Only 1.2 people out of 1000 in Ottawa Centre are admitted to hospital for strokes.

Health experts say the Champlain LHIN is good at preventing strokes, it just needs to get better at treating the neurological attacks.

You can read the Ontario Stroke Network Report Card here.

@JudyTrinhCBC