Steve Biko Academic Hospital honoured Internationally.

Professor Mandisa Kakaza, director of neurology at Steve Biko Academic Hospital, time is of the essence when treating stroke patients. This is the reason the hospital cut the length of patient treatment from eight hours to just 15 minutes, a decision that garnered it a coveted international prize.

A global organization advocating for the treatment of strokes, Angels, presented the hospital with the Diamond Stroke Award during the 2022 International European Stroke Congress. The hospital’s stroke unit is the nation’s first and only facility of its kind to receive international accreditation.

The hospital was honored for the progress it has achieved in lessening the consequences of stroke-related impairment and preventing stroke-related mortality. Patients are more likely to be independent and continue working after a stroke thanks to the new treatment strategy.

However, the decision to expedite patient care has produced more than simply an honor. According to Kakaza, because patients are receiving treatment more quickly, there is less chance of long-term brain damage and a shorter hospital stay for recuperation.

Brain tissue can begin to perish from a lack of blood in a matter of minutes. The harm incurred during a stroke may be irreparable since brain tissue cannot recover.

The area surrounding the stroke site may have restricted blood flow during this form of stroke, however Kakaza claims that damage to the surrounding area can be greatly diminished if medical professionals respond immediately to remove the blockage.

The typical hospital stay for patients who are eligible for acute care has decreased from about 33 days to six days. According to Dr. Nomathemba Mokgethi, MEC for Gauteng Health, this not only helps the hospital save money but also frees up beds for additional patients.

Mokgethi adds “I applaud the Steve Biko Academic Hospital team for the global recognition. This award is a testament to the hard work of many men and women in our health system, who go above and beyond the call of duty to find ways to improve patient care”.

The management of stroke patients was reviewed by the Stroke Unit team last year with the goal of ensuring that patients regain their independence. This is particularly significant in South Africa, where stroke victims are frequently still economically active.

“We see, on average, two to three stroke patients a day. It’s a big burden on society. In many developing countries, strokes tend to happen to people older than 65. However, in South Africa we have non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. In South Africa, the average age of stroke victims is around 40.

“If you’re 40 something and suffer a stroke, you can be left with weakness on one side of your body and unable to resume work. You cannot look after the family and are dependent on others for care. It’s that burden that we are trying to reduce,” Kakaza says.

The hospital has improved training for younger healthcare personnel to assist them in swiftly identifying stroke patients in the emergency room and has established a system to better retain data for research reasons in addition to speeding up patient treatment times.Additionally, the hospital is working with Boston University in America to build a quick AI tool that would enable quicker and better CT scan picture interpretation. “It’s all about treating patients as quickly as possible,” she says.

Given the lack of neurology specialists in the nation, Kakaza expects that the hospital’s lessons will be used extensively to improve stroke care.

“Our training is world-class, but the number of training posts are two small. It takes four years to train a neurologist, but we only have four training posts. So essentially, one neurologist graduate per year,” she says.

Due to the concentration of neurologists in urban and metropolitan areas, rural villages frequently lack access to specialists, and since time is of the essence when treating stroke victims, traveling to the closest metropolis can be fatal.

“The accolade we have received in this short time serves as encouragement to us to continue to strive to improve the care of our patients. This is a recognition that Steve Biko Academic Hospital is on the right track. It is proof that when departments in the hospital work together, we can achieve more than when we work separately,” Kakaza says.

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