ierra View Medical Center has earned The Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval and now holds Advanced Primary Stroke Center Certification.

Sierra View also received the American Heart Association's Get With The Guidelines - Stroke GOLD PLUS with Target: Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll award. Patients from Porterville and surrounding communities now receive nationally certified care from Sierra View.

Sierra View underwent a rigorous onsite review on May 21, then received final Primary Stroke Center certification on July 21. During the visit, a Joint Commission reviewer evaluated Sierra View compliance with stroke-related certification standards.

Joint Commission standards are developed in consultation with health care experts, providers, measurement experts and patients. The reviewer also conducted observations and interviews via a virtual survey processes.

Primary Stroke Certification recognizes health care organizations committed to fostering continuous quality improvement in patient safety and quality of care,” said Mark Pelletier, RN, MS, chief operating officer, Accreditation and Certification Operations, and chief nursing executive, The Joint Commission.

In 2020, Sierra View Medical Center cared for 161 stroke patients with a median age of 66. Previously, patients in or near Porterville may have needed to be transferred elsewhere for advanced stroke care.

Sierra View joins nearby hospitals like Visalia's Kaweah Health and Adventist Health Hanford in deliver stroke care. "This certification means that we not only are bringing immediate care for patients but that we're also bringing the highest quality care to South Valley residents," said Dr. Melissa Fuentes, DHA, LCSW, CCM, CPHQ, Sierra View Vice President of Quality and Regulatory Affairs

Sierra View has stroke alert, an emergency process for recognizing and treating acute stroke patients when being treated by the hospital. These patients receive standardized care for stroke, based on best practice.

Emergency Medical Service workers call ahead when transporting a stroke patient to the emergency room. Upon arrival, a stroke alert updates everyone on shift to trigger the stroke care process to do everything possible to give the patient the best care possible.

Patients receive treatment based on their type of stroke. Sierra View can offer pharmacological treatment for stroke, to appropriate patients, and it partners with other local stroke centers for other types of advanced care, such as for a hemorrhagic stroke.

Sierra View'ss journey to becoming an Advanced Primary Stroke Program began in 2015. Sierra View created a Stroke Committee, which established a framework of standardized stroke care rooted firmly in best practice and developed policies and staff education curriculum to support the program.

The multidisciplinary committee included hospital leadership (clinical and support) and individuals from care coordination teams, imaging services, staff development and education, pharmacy, and Emergency Medical Services community partners.

Together, they have made Sierra View into an Advanced Primary Stroke Center. The Medical Director for the stroke program is Dr. Ramu Thiagarajan, MD, a Neurology Specialist. Thiagarajan forms part of a smaller Stroke Program team, including two nursing professionals and the hospital's Vice President of Quality & Regulatory Affairs.

Stroke & Sepsis Program Coordinator Laura Soares, RN, continues to work with numerous hospital departments and said she's proud of her team for achieving The Joint Commission Certification and AHA recognition. "I'm excited that SVMC can offer this level of distinguished quality stroke care in Porterville," she said.

Every Sierra View employee such as LVN Karen Taylor receives training to recognize the typical signs of a stroke. An easy-to-remember acronym (BE FAST) helps to highlight the importance of always being on the lookout for stroke signs such as balance loss, eyesight or vision issues, face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and when to call 911.

The best stroke treatment is time-sensitive. "To have achieved this while also heavily focusing on the pandemic and COVID-19-related patient safety measures is noteworthy," said Fuentes. "I think it speaks to our organization's commitment to delivering safe, high-quality care based rooted in best practices at all times."

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