By Joel Hall
Southern Regional Medical Center (SRMC), a full-service hospital serving the Southern Crescent, gained another mark of distinction this month.
It was certified by the Joint Commission -- a national health care accrediting agency -- as a Primary Stroke Center (PSC).
SRMC now stands to be recognized as one of the leading hospitals in the country for its treatment of stroke victims.
"When you look at other [hospitals], you always look for programs of distinction that they have," said John Scuderi, managing director of neurosciences at SRMC.
"To achieve certification, the program must meet a set of standards that the Joint Commissioner dictates. The certification means that we have put in place systems and processes to make sure that patients who come here with a stroke will receive the highest care possible."
He said the certification is based on a number of factors, including preparedness, staffing, organization, and the speed of treatment. Scuderi said that SRMC is the only hospital between Interstate 20 and Macon to have PSC certification.
Time is of the essence when a person suffers a stroke, and not every hospital is prepared, said Dr. Ernesto Fernandez, a staff neurologist at SRMC and chairman of the hospital's stroke program.
"We always try to stress, here, that time is brain," said Fernandez. "When a person begins to suffer from a stroke, you only have a few hours to do one of the few treatments that can have a positive impact. You may not get that treatment at a hospital that is not set up for that."
Fernandez said it is very common for hospitals not to have an in-house neurologist 24-hours a day, and is it not uncommon for hospitals to have too few CT (Computed Tomography) scanners to quickly determine whether a person has suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, or an ischemic (blocked artery) stroke.
"That's why it's important to have a team in place," he said. "Can they draw their blood work soon enough? Do they have a CT scanner in place that can rule out a blood hemorrhage?
"[Having certification] ensures the patient that they are going to be treated with the most modern methods available in a homogeneous way, across the board."