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Tygerberg’s new stroke care firing on all cylinders
Author: Carine Visagie
Published: 19/06/2017

​With its unique approach and dedicated team of healthcare workers, the new stroke unit at Tygerberg Hospital is already making great strides in helping to address South Africa's stroke burden.

Research indicates that dedicated care units can assist in optimising stroke care via relatively simple, low-cost methods. Yet in South Africa, where stroke is one of the top three causes of mortality, such units have not previously been prioritised. This is starting to change thanks to the establishment of the new Tygerberg Stroke Unit (TSU).

The new unit is the result of many months of preparation by Stellenbosch University (SU) and role players at Tygerberg Hospital, including Dr Naeem Brey, consultant neurologist at the Division of Neurology at SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Dr Neshaad Schreuder, Head of General Specialist Services of the Department of Medicine, Prof Jonathan Carr, Head of the Division of Neurology, and Prof Rafique Moosa, Head of the FMHS' Department of Medicine. Other South African hospitals are now using the unit as a model.

The concept stemmed from the recognition of the high stroke burden in South Africa, as well as the positive outcomes seen at Groote Schuur and GF Jooste Hospitals, where similar units were previously successfully established.

"The TSU concept was refined by means of some modification of local and international models," says Brey. "After many meetings and deliberation with the various department heads, the unit was quietly launched on 1 February 2016."

Since the unit opened its doors in what used to be a six-bed hospital ward, approximately 130 patients have been treated. During this time the team also assisted with the care of stroke patients in the medical wards, while working on improving referral streams, optimising various protocols and disseminating information to other hospital units – all in an effort to get the unit running smoothly for the official launch in February 2017.

The multidisciplinary team treating stroke patients at the TSU includes doctors and nurses, as well as occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians and social workers – all of whom received specialised training.

According to Brey hyper-acute, acute and sub-acute stroke patients are all eligible for management by the TSU team. "Depending on the type of stroke and the time of presentation, patients are rapidly assessed for thrombolytic therapy (the administration of medication to dissolve blood clots) ... Those who aren't eligible for this potentially life-changing treatment are managed according to best medical and surgical practices."

Following its success during the first year, other hospitals have been in contact with the team to set up units of their own – a gesture welcomed by Brey and the rest of the TSU team. "To facilitate this process, we have shared our protocols with different hospitals and will shortly be hosting training sessions."

For more information about the TSU, contact Brey at breyn@sun.ac.za or call +27 21 938 5500.

Caption: Dr Naeem Brey, consultant neurologist at the Division of Neurology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences with members of the new stroke unit at Tygerberg Hospital.