Statewide stroke response system proposed

Nebraska would develop a statewide stroke system of care under a bill heard Jan. 22 by the Health and Human Services Committee.

Sen. Roy Baker of Lincoln, sponsor of LB722, said the Stroke System of Care Act created by the bill would improve overall outcomes for stroke patients in Nebraska.

“Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States,” he said. “With our aging population, I believe this legislation is an important public policy.”

Under the bill, the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would compile a list of hospitals in the state that meet the criteria to be a comprehensive stroke center, primary care stroke center or acute stroke-ready hospital.

The department would adopt and distribute a nationally recognized, standardized stroke triage assessment tool and develop a plan for achieving continuous quality improvement. A task force also would be established by DHHS to address matters of triage, treatment and transport of stoke patients.

Denise Gorski, testifying on behalf of Nebraska Medicine, spoke in favor of the bill.

Gorski said time is of the utmost importance to prevent brain tissue death due to stroke, and Nebraska’s fragmented approach to stroke care leads to significant variations in outcomes for stroke victims.

Some hospitals in Nebraska are not prepared to triage stroke victims properly, she said, and LB722 would coordinate efforts to get patients the most appropriate care quickly.

“A patient’s chance of intervention and a positive outcome should not be largely influenced by geography,” she said, “yet often it is.”

James Bobenhouse, a stroke neurologist from Lincoln, also testified in support of the bill. He said there are 14 stroke centers in Nebraska, but large areas of the state are underserved.

Establishing protocols statewide would help coordinate swift treatment, he said, noting that every 15 minutes of delay in treatment increases a patient’s chance of death by 4 percent.

“We need to treat a stroke as early as possible,” Bobenhouse said.

No opposition testimony was offered and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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