WOONSOCKET — For the first time, municipal ambulance crews who believe their patients are suffering a stroke can deliver them to Landmark Medical Center.
That’s because Landmark was certified by the Joint Commission, the nation’s main accrediting body of health care organizations, as a primary stroke treatment center, the hospital announced.
The state Department of Health has also added Landmark to its official list of Certified Stroke Centers, enabling Landmark to treat more residents from northern Rhode Island who have suffered a stroke or who are likely to.
“Because of northern Rhode Island’s high elderly population, and the increased likelihood of stroke for people 65 and older, Landmark’s improved capability to treat patients suffering from stroke and offer rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island is arriving at a crucial time,” said Richard Charest, hospital president.
The timing also dovetails with the proposed sale of Landmark to the Steward Health Care System, which continues to move through regulatory channels. A joint review of the merger by the attorney general and DOH under the Hospital Conversions Act is expected to be complete no later than July 17, and Health Director Michael Fine is expected to sign off any day on the Health Services Council’s May 8 recommendation to transfer effective control of Landmark to Steward.
Landmark has been attempting to complete a merger with a financially sound health care company since entering receivership in June 2008, saying it was on the brink of insolvency.
Steward, a fledgling for-profit hospital chain created with backing from a New York private equity company, was approved as a qualified buyer last May in Superior Court. The company now owns 11 hospitals, all in Massachusetts, including the former Caritas Christi network.
Bill Fischer, a spokesman for Landmark, says the Joint Commission’s stroke certification would be good news for the hospital even outside the context of the merger because it means more patients for Landmark.
“It’s a good thing in general,” he said. “It’s going to increase the patient census.”
Landmark had been seeking approval as a certified stroke center for approximately a year. The commission’s certification took effect May 7 and DOH followed suit a week later.
Previously, stroke patients were admitted to the hospital as long as they were transported by a friend or a family member. Under the law, ambulances may only deliver suspected stroke patients at certified stroke centers, however.
“The big change, and it’s a major change, is that ambulances can now take stroke victims to Landmark,” Fischer said. “That’s huge for us.”
Fischer said the hospital has been in touch with municipal ambulance services in the Greater Woonsocket area, including those in nearby Massachusetts, to make sure they are aware of the change.
“Heart attack and stroke are two leading causes of death in Northern Rhode Island residents,” said Charest. “Landmark already has an outstanding cardiac program. The new commission-approved program will now allow Landmark to provide excellent acute stroke care locally as well.”
Nationally, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, according to 2012 statistics from the American Heart Association, Charest said.