July 15, 2020

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Manitoba plans 28-bed acute stroke unit at HSC

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Dr. Perry Gray, speaks to the media during a press conference to announce a new dedicated stroke unit that will be opened at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre, Tuesday.</p>

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dr. Perry Gray, speaks to the media during a press conference to announce a new dedicated stroke unit that will be opened at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre, Tuesday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/6/2019 (399 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A new acute stroke unit to be built at the Health Sciences Centre will save lives, speed recovery times and reduce the likelihood a patient will lose their independence, proponents say.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced Tuesday that the new 28-bed unit will be located at the current Women's Pavilion at HSC.

Construction will begin after the relocation of staff, equipment and programming at the pavilion to the new Women's Hospital in December.

Manitoba is the only province without a dedicated stroke unit. The Progressive Conservatives promised during the 2016 election campaign to remedy that. Their announcement came the day before the imposition of a news blackout in advance of an anticipated election this fall.

"We know this unit will make a difference between life and death," Friesen told a press conference at HSC.

"(Stroke) is the leading cause of disability. It is the third leading cause of death in the province of Manitoba," he said.

Stroke units are credited with preventing stroke complications and recurrence and ensuring early rehabilitation therapy. The Manitoba unit will include neurologists, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, social workers and others working together as a team, said Dr. Perry Gray, chief medical officer with Shared Health, a new provincial health agency.

"The creation of an acute stroke unit will provide Manitobans with the full range of therapies needed to maximize recovery from a stroke," he said. "With an aging population we expect the group of patients needing stroke care to continue to grow."

Therapies for dealing with strokes include clot busting (using drugs), clot removal (a surgical procedure done in Manitoba only at HSC) and early intensive rehabilitation. It's this latter therapy that has been largely been absent in Manitoba because of the lack of a dedicated stroke unit.

"After you experience a stroke, your brain has a window...usually starting after 24 hours," Gray said. "I call it the window of rehab opportunity ... where the brain cells you have left take over the function of the brain cells you have lost. It is where early intensive rehabilitation therapy can achieve results that cannot be achieved with lesser or delayed rehab. The brain has an early ability to bounce back, an ability we want to capitalize on."

About 2,000 Manitobans suffer a stroke each year.

Christine Houde, director of government relations and health promotion with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said her organization has been advocating the establishment of an acute stroke unit in the province for the past decade. She said it will bring Manitoba in line with the rest of the country.

"Stroke units save lives," she said. "They also increase the odds that a stroke patient will return home again and regain independence. In fact, they can reduce the chance of disability and death by as much as 30 per cent."

Friesen said the more than two dozen beds that are to be opened up for the new unit will free up hospital space elsewhere and improve service delivery.

The unit will be located on the fourth and fifth floors of what is now the Women's Pavilion. Renovations to the 18,400-square-foot area will cost in the millions of dollars. The government didn't want to provide a more specific cost estimate before the project was tendered.

Friesen said some existing staff will be redeployed to the new unit, but there will be new hires as well.

Last December, the province partnered with the HSC Foundation and philanthropist Paul Albrechtsen on the development of new angiography facilities and the purchase of new equipment for HSC's new state-of-the-art Diagnostic Centre of Excellence. Stroke patients will benefit from the new centre and its advanced equipment when it opens next year.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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