VBMC receives comprehensive stroke center certification

HARLINGEN — Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen is the area’s first and only Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, not only in the Rio Grande Valley, but also south of San Antonio.

“This is a major milestone for Valley Baptist, but also for our Valley community,” said Manny Vela, Chief Executive Officer of Valley Baptist Health System.

“With stroke treatment, every minute counts, and residents deserve to have access to the life-saving services of a nearby comprehensive stroke center.”

The hospital was surveyed in June by DNV Healthcare, part of Det Norske Veritas, and received the final results on July 28. DNV accredits acute care and critical access hospitals, and provides comprehensive as well as primary stroke center certification.

For comprehensive certification, a hospital must be able to meet the standards to treat the most complex stroke cases, including:

  • Availability of advanced imaging techniques
  • Availability of vascular neurology, neurosurgery, and endovascular neurology personnel
  • 24/7 availability of personnel for imaging, surgery and endovascular facilities
  • Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit
  • Experience in treatment of large ischemic strokes, intracerebral and subarachnoid hemorrhage

According to the DNV, “Comprehensive stroke centers are typically the largest and best-equipped hospitals in a given geographical area that can treat any kind of stroke or stroke complication.”

One of the major differences between a primary stroke center and a comprehensive stroke center is the availability of 24/7 neurointerventional services. But there are other significant differences between the two.

A comprehensive stroke center must participate in research studies, meet minimum patient volumes, focus on the overall care continuum, and meet other requirements.

“When someone has symptoms of a stroke, it is important to call 911 and get to the closest primary stroke center as soon as possible,” said Dr. Ameer Hassan, an endovascular neurologist and head of the Neuroscience Program at VBMC-Harlingen.

“At that point, the medical team can determine the most appropriate treatment plan. If the patient needs a higher level of stroke care, they can be transferred to Valley Baptist.

“For example,” Hassan said, “if it has been more than four hours since stroke symptoms began, and ‘clot-busting’ drugs can no longer be administered, we offer further endovascular intervention 24/7.

“This treatment, where we enter the brain and remove the clot, can help save patients from the lifelong damages of a stroke,” he added.

This important designation is the result of the entire Valley Baptist stroke team working together toward the common cause of comprehensive stroke care, said Dr. Wondwossen Tekle, Director of Stroke Program and Neurocritical Care at the hospital.

“Neurologists, neurosurgeons, ER and other physicians work in tandem with the ER, Neuro ICU, Stroke Unit, Imaging, Research, Rehabilitation, Administrative and other staff to provide the highest level of stroke care in the Valley,” Tekle said.

Vela added, “This certification is the result of years of dedication to stroke care at Valley Baptist, initiated by Dr. Victoria Parada more than a decade ago, and continued by Dr. Parada, along with Dr. Ameer Hassan, Dr. Wondwossen Tekle and the stroke team to achieve this important recognition as a Comprehensive Stroke Center.”

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HMC rates 4 stars for high-level health care in South Texas

HARLINGEN — Harlingen Medical Center has achieved a four-star rating, reflecting high levels of quality health care being provided to Rio Grande Valley residents.

That’s according to the recently-released “Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings” by the U.S. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS.

The four-star rating, on a scale of one to five, indicates an above-average performance by the award-winning and nationally-recognized hospital. By comparison, most other hospitals in the Valley, and across the country, received a three-star rating. Star ratings are commonly used in other industries and are familiar to most consumers.

According to the CMS website, there were no hospitals scoring higher than four stars south of San Antonio. The ratings are available to the public on the Hospital Compare website: www.HospitalCompare.hhs.gov.

The CMS’ new “Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating” combines 64 measures of the quality of health care into a single rating. These measures include seven major categories of health care ratings:

  • Safety of care
  • Mortality rates
  • Re-admission rates
  • Effectiveness of care
  • Patient experience
  • Efficient use of medical imaging
  • Timeliness of care

Harlingen Medical Center scored above the national average in safety of patient care, in effectiveness of patient care, and in having low mortality rates and low re-admission rates to the hospital.

“This outstanding score — tied for the highest in the Valley and South Texas — reflects the dedication of the physicians, nurses and other health professionals at our hospital, in serving our patients with high-quality, compassionate, and personalized care,” said Brenda Ivory, HMC President and Chief Executive Officer.

“At Harlingen Medical Center, we are all committed to creating an exceptional patient experience. And that includes ensuring we effectively communicate with our patients, ensuring we are responsive to their needs, and ensuring we provide a quiet and clean environment during their stay with us.”

“Our people are what make the difference at our hospital. They are our greatest asset,” added Amy Flores, HMC Chief Nursing Officer. “We are here to serve. At the heart of all of these quality ratings — and of everything else that we do — is to take care of our patients in the best possible way.”

The ratings are based on data collected over a two-year period between January 2014 and December 2015. Across the country, 102 hospitals received a five-star rating, 934 hospitals received the four-star rating, 1,770 hospitals received a three-star rating, 723 hospitals received a two-star rating and 133 hospitals received a one-star rating.

For more information, visit www.HarlingenMedicalCenter.com.