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San Joaquin Community Hospital's Stroke Center Receives Gold Seal of Approval

Awards & Recognition In response to a recent survey conducted by the Joint Commission, San Joaquin Community Hospital’s (SJCH) Stroke Center received the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval.

“Our staff has done a tremendous job in raising the level of stroke care in our community over these past two years,” said SJCH President and CEO Robert J. Beehler. “As we move forward, our goal is to continue to save and improve lives by providing exemplary care for strokes.”

In 2008, SJCH became the first hospital between Los Angeles and San Francisco to have a Nationally Certified Stroke Center. Since that time, the SJCH Stroke Center has been recognized and awarded for the quality care it is delivering to patients. Among these honors is the American Stroke Association’s Silver Plus award, given to hospitals who reach 85 percent adherence in all stroke performance indicators for 12 months.

Though high percentile rankings and statistical indicators paint a picture of the quality care given at the SJCH Stroke Center, the real impact is seen in the lives the center has touched. Victor Escamilla, a Bakersfield resident in his mid-20s, is one such example. After showing stroke symptoms, Escamilla was diagnosed with a stroke upon his arrival in the SJCH Emergency Department. From there, Escamilla’s life was preserved by the steady hand of Dr. Don Cornforth and a clot-removal device called the Penumbra System.

“I’m so grateful to San Joaquin Community Hospital’s Stroke Center,” Escamilla said. “Without it, my wife would be a single mother and my 13-month old daughter wouldn’t have a daddy.”

New Frontiers
As the premier facility for comprehensive health care in Kern County, the staff and caregivers at SJCH are dedicated to providing whole-person care for our community. That objective is no different for the Stroke Center, which is working to build relationships with communities extending far beyond the Bakersfield city limits. At present time, there are no certified stroke centers outside the city—which can be a scary thing for those in outlying county communities.

“The longer a stroke goes untreated, the higher the risk of death or long-term disability,” said Michelle Hartshorn, SJCH Stroke Program coordinator. “It is vital that patients begin receiving treatment within three to four hours after symptoms first appear.”

In most cases, the first line of treatment for strokes is Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), a treatment which helps break down blood clots. The problem? Due to the volatility of tPA, there are a long list of criteria for administering the drug. With the high risk involved, it’s a decision many small facilities that lack specific stroke expertise are hesitant to give. But as Hartshorn, notes, it is important that Kern County hospitals work together for the greater good of the patient.

“The number one goal is to make sure that our community is protected from the debilitating effects of a stroke. As a Nationally Certified Stroke Center, we are here as a resource to help outlying facilities determine if giving tPA is the correct course of action.”

The first such relationship—with Ridgecrest Regional Hospital—has already paid dividends. On June 23, a patient went to Ridgecrest Hospital with obvious symptoms of a stroke. Hospital personnel immediately called the staff at the SJCH Stroke Center, who quickly determined that the patient was in need of tPA and advised Ridgecrest staff on administering the drug. After the tPA was given, the patient was taken by ambulance to the SJCH Stroke Center. As Hartshorn says, this model—informally called “drip-and-ship”— represents the ideal partnership between facilities.

“We’ve put a lot of work into developing a relationship with the staff and administrators at Ridgecrest Hospital, and it has already directly impacted one life. Hopefully, we can use this as a model for developing relationships with all of our outlying community hospitals and clinics.”