HCCH Earns Level III Stroke Center Designation


Harrison County Community Hospital in Bethany was notified on April 17 that it had been designated a Level III Stroke Center, the culmination of a year’s preparation involving a multidisciplinary team drawn from across the hospital.  

Stroke center designation, granted by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, is part of Missouri’s Time Critical Diagnosis System, which aims to improve stroke patients’ health outcomes by coordinating the efforts of 911 response systems, ambulance services and hospitals.

Hospitals that obtain Stroke Center designation have met stringent requirements related to their facilities and equipment, staffing, policies and procedures, staff education and community outreach.

For the past year, staff members throughout the hospital have been preparing to become a Level III Stroke Center, according to Tina Gillespie, the hospital’s interim chief executive officer.

State inspectors visited the hospital on January 10 for an onsite survey.

HCCH earned a four-year designation that is valid through January 2021.

“Time is of the essence when diagnosing a suspected stroke and beginning treatment. Minutes have a dramatic effect on clinical outcomes,” said Dr. Chad Lambert, medical director of the hospital’s stroke program.

A stroke occurs when a clot obstructs the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel ruptures and prevents appropriate blood flow to the brain. During a stroke, two million brain cells are lost each minute until blood flow is restored.

Facial droop or an uneven smile, arm or leg weakness or speech difficulty can be stroke symptoms that should prompt people to call 911 for immediate medical attention.

“Keri Barclay, the stroke program coordinator, has done an excellent job of implementing a new ‘code stroke’ alert system. Rapid CT scans, lab work and other testing and protocols for suspected stroke patients allow the Emergency Department to diagnose strokes and make clinical decisions more quickly,” Dr. Lambert said.

Stroke center designation for Missouri hospitals ranges from Level I to Level IV, depending on the level of care they are equipped to provide.

Level I facilities have specialized resources needed to provide the most complex stroke treatments, including surgical interventions.

Level III facilities such as HCCH are prepared to start giving medications to dissolve a clot or slow a brain hemorrhage, according to Barclay. The hospital is also capable of rapidly transferring patients to a higher-level stroke center.

“Although Stroke Center designation is voluntary, we want to provide high-quality stroke care for our patients. Our preparations, training and emphasis on time-critical diagnosis will benefit not only stroke patients, but all patients for whom we provide care,” Gillespie said. 

HCCH was also required to demonstrate the ability to care for patients recovering from a stroke through services such as inpatient and Swing Bed (post-acute) programs which provide individualized care to meet the unique needs of each patient.

Physical, occupational, and speech therapy provided by the hospital are also crucial for stroke patients to achieve their maximum level of functioning after a stroke.

Senior Life Solutions, the hospital’s outpatient group counseling program, is also available for stroke survivors and their caregivers who are dealing with the emotional stress that can accompany illness or disability.

Community education to help prevent strokes is an important role of stroke centers.

“We want people to know they can reduce their stroke risk by not smoking, controlling high blood pressure and diabetes, exercising, eating healthy and treating atrial fibrillation, a major cause of strokes,” Barclay said.

Nearly 800,000 people in the United States have strokes every year. They kill nearly 130,000 people annually, making stroke the fifth-leading cause of death, according to the American Stroke Association.

Pictured: HCCH staff representing several departments that prepared for the HCCH’s stroke center designation are (left to right) Valerie Sherrill, Cardio-Pulmonary Services; Dr. Charles Sciolaro, ER physician; Amber Escueta, Laboratory; Dr. Chad Lambert, stroke program medical director; Erica Babinski, Imaging Services; Keri Barclay RN, stroke program coordinator and Angie Janssen RN, ER nurse.

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