Interview by Renee Ovando, RN
Throughout the process of becoming a primary stroke center, we have collaborated with Captain Matthew Hill of the Santa Monica Fire Department Emergency Medical Services (SMFD EMS) and Paramedic Program. He is a strong supporter of Providence Saint John Health Center‘s stroke center status for the Santa Monica community and was kind enough to talk to us about it.
Q: What are the benefits of having a stroke center in Santa Monica?
MH: The Santa Monica Fire Department is thrilled to finally have a stroke center in the City of Santa Monica. It is no secret that traffic is unpredictable and is increasingly getting worse at an alarming rate. Prior to Providence Saint John’s opening as a primary stroke center, Fire Department units in Santa Monica would have to battle traffic to and from UCLA Westwood which at times could put a unit out of service for over two hours. We believe our citizens deserve the best care possible and direct access to a primary stroke center within the City of Santa Monica means immediate treatment for our citizens. Couple that with the fact our units will be back in service much sooner and available to respond to other emergencies is an enormous victory for all parties involved.
Q: Could you tell us about the importance of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) collaborating with the stroke program?
MH: Collaboration with EMS is essential for any program that requires prehospital intervention. Dr. Jason Tarpley and nurse Renee Ovando did an excellent job of not only consulting with EMS but also providing in depth training on stroke etiology to all Santa Monica Fire Department Paramedics and EMTs. This training gave validity to the dedication of Dr. Tarpley and Renee. Involving EMS has in turn motivated EMS to do all it can to see this program succeed.
Q: What does a local stroke center mean for patients?
MH: This stroke center provides easier access to treatment for a life-threatening condition. There are more than 10 convalescent hospitals in the City of Santa Monica many of which are within walking distance to Providence Saint John’s Health Center. Patients in these facilities who may be suffering from a stroke will be seen much sooner due to a short ambulance ride to Saint John’s instead of Westwood.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of the public recognizing stroke is an emergency and calling 911?
MH: It is very important to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke such as facial droop, sudden and unexplained weakness, slurred speech or difficulty producing speech. This recognition is the first step in ensuring the patient receives the medical help they need and it is the only way to ensure 911 is activated. Every second that passes in which a stroke goes untreated and blood flow to the brain continues to be blocked, the brain is dying. Time is brain. The goal is to view a stroke the same as we would view a heart attack. This is a “brain attack” in which a person’s speech, movement, vision and other senses can be affected. 911 needs to be called immediately. Certain stroke therapies can only be given in the first few hours from the time of onset.
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We enjoy a strong partnership with SMFD EMS and thank them for supporting the efforts of the Pacific Stroke and Neurovascular Center. To find out more about our certification as a primary stroke center, read Part 1 of this two part series.
Renee Ovando, RN, BSN, SCRN is the program manager of the Pacific Stroke and Neurovascular Center located at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. She has over 11 years experience in stroke, neurovascular and cardiovascular care in the acute care setting.