Georgia's top stroke hospital

12/01/11 — Georgia Trend magazine has listed St. Mary’s Health Care System as the #1 hospital in the state of Georgia for treatment of stroke in 2012 in its annual report, Top Georgia Hospitals, published in the December 2011 issue of the magazine.

“I am as proud as I can be that St. Mary’s is ranked as the top hospital in the state for stroke care,” said Don McKenna, President and CEO. “Georgia has several hospitals with international reputations for quality care, so to be ranked #1 in the state is truly outstanding. Our staff and medical staff deserve the credit. Over the past decade, they have put together a program that is a model for other stroke programs around the country.”

In addition to the #1 ranking, St. Mary’s has been certified by The Joint Commission as an advanced primary stroke center since 2004 – one of the first 20 hospitals in the nation to achieve specialty certification in stroke. The hospital also has received back-to-back Gold Plus awards in 2010 and 2011 for stroke care from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. The gold plus award is the highest level of recognition possible from the AHA/ASA and indicates years of adherence to highly detailed, evidence-based standards of care.

“In a stroke, time lost is brain lost,” said Cammie Llewallyn, a certified neuroscience registered nurse and St. Mary’s director of neurosciences. “This recognition demonstrates our commitment to being one of the top hospitals in the country for providing aggressive, proven stroke care. It demonstrates that we are caring for our patients in accordance with stringent national guidelines.”

“This kind of recognition is great, but our true reward is in preventing stroke in the first place or in helping our patients return to a full, active life after a stroke,” said H. McCord Smith, M.D., a vascular neurologist and neurohospitalist. “Not many years ago, there wasn’t much we could do to interrupt a stroke and prevent or reduce damage to the brain. Today, because of advances in medical science and St. Mary’s evidence-based approach to care, we are able to successfully intervene more and more often.”

“We’re dedicated to staying on the leading edge of stroke diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation,” said C. Van Morris, M.D., who also is a neurohospitalist at St. Mary’s. “Our patients’ health and quality of life is our number one priority. We’re constantly working to help even more people prevent stroke and enjoy the highest possible quality of life after a stroke.”

The #1 ranking for stroke care is one of seven top 10 rankings that St. Mary’s received in the 2012 Georgia Trend report. The other six are:
• Overall Gastrointestinal Care – #3
• General surgery – #4
• Joint Replacement – #4
• Neurosciences – #7
• Overall orthopedic services – #10
• Prostatectomy – #10

“These rankings reflect the positive impact that our focus on quality is having on patient outcomes,” said Jackie Ginter, a registered nurse who is St. Mary’s director of quality and performance improvement. “The real importance of these rankings is what they mean for our patients. They demonstrate that we are doing an exceptional job of caring for the whole person, providing care that is consistent with national best practices, and adhering to standards that can make a real difference for the patient and his or her family.”

The Georgia Trend rankings cap an exceptional year of honors for St. Mary’s, McKenna noted, including:
• Ranking as a best regional hospital for orthopedics in U.S. News and World Report’s annual Best Hospitals report
• Receiving the American Hospital Association Circle of Life Citation of Honor for innovations in palliative and hospice care, one of only seven organizations in the nation to be recognized
• Receiving the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Get With The Guidelines Gold Plus Award for stroke in 2010 and 2011
• Receiving new specialty certifications from The Joint Commission in advanced inpatient diabetes care and spine surgery
• Receiving ongoing certification from The Joint Commission in stroke care, heart failure care and total knee replacement
• Being named Georgia’s Large Hospital of the Year in 2006 and 2010 by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals
• Placement on the Quality Honor Roll continuously since 2008 by the Georgia Hospital Association Partnership for Health and Accountability.

In addition, St. Mary’s Palliative Care manager Tanya Adcock was named one of 10 Hospital Heroes in the state by the Georgia Hospital Association. Adcock, a registered nurse, was honored for her role in saving the life of a man who suffered a massive heart attack at a tractor pull in April.

“Our staff and medical staff work hard to continuously build St. Mary’s reputation for providing high-quality, patient-centered care,” McKenna said. “We are passionate about our mission to be a compassionate healing presence in the communities we serve, and we are dedicated to providing the best possible care to our patients and our community.”

To view the complete Georgia Trend report, go to

About stroke care at St. Mary’s
Stroke is the #4 cause of death and #1 cause of disability in America. St. Mary’s provides state-of-the-art, evidence based stroke care through the region’s most comprehensive range of services.
•Emergency care – high-speed 64-slice CT scanning and other diagnostics make clot-busting drug treatment possible for eligible patients.
•Neurohospitalist care – full-time, hospital-based neurologists C. Van Morris, M.D., and H. McCord Smith, M.D., coordinate care for stroke and other neuroscience patients at St. Mary’s.
•Neurosurgery – providing state-of-the-art neurosurgical services for patients with hemorrhagic stroke and other conditions that affect the brain, spine and nervous system.
•Inpatient care – exceptional team of health professionals, including more certified neuroscience nurses than any other community hospital in Georgia, provides care in St. Mary’s dedicated Neuroscience Critical Care Unit and neuroscience nursing unit.
•Center for Rehabilitative Medicine – the only facility of its kind in the Athens area, the CRM provides 24/7 inpatient care with at least three hours a day of physical therapy, occupational therapy and/or speech-language pathology.
•St. Mary’s Neurological Specialists – Angela McSwain, M.D., and Robert M. Steadham, M.D., provide complete medical care and follow-up for patients with any neurological condition, including stroke. 2410 Hog Mountain Road, Watkinsville
•Home health care services – bringing compassionate nurses, aides, therapists and more into patients’ homes across a nine-county region of Northeast Georgia since 1970.
•Outpatient Rehabilitation Services – provides comprehensive therapy to help patients maximize their recovery and quality of life. 2470 Daniells Bridge Road.
•Preventive services – working to prevent stroke through nutrition services, exercise at St. Mary’s Wellness Center, and community education.

Warning signs of stroke
•Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
•Sudden trouble speaking or understanding
•Sudden trouble seeing
•Sudden trouble walking
•Sudden confusion, dizziness or loss of balance
•Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Stroke is a medical emergency. If any of these symptoms appear, call 911 immediately. Time lost is brain lost.

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