Coast's stroke unit saving lives

Stroke Unit patient Ian Payne and Dr Sergio Diez Alvarez.
Stroke Unit patient Ian Payne and Dr Sergio Diez Alvarez. Trevor Veale

COFFS Harbour’s dedicated stroke unit has already proved its worth in the 12 months it has been operating.

Around Australia, someone has a stroke every 10 minutes and since it opened in March last year, Coffs Harbour’s stroke unit has treated about 170 patients.

The unit greatly improves outcomes for stroke survivors and their families, providing comprehensive and co-ordinated care and working in conjunction with rehabilitation services.

Even better news for local stroke victims is the appointment of Dr Sergio Diez Alvarez to the unit late last year.

A specialist physician with an interest in stroke, Dr Alvarez is the director of the Medical Assessment Unit at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus and the current rural representative for the NSW State Committee of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

“Stroke survivors have the best outcomes when they are treated in a stroke unit with specialised staff,” Dr Diez Alvarez said.

“Many patients who have participated in the Stroke Care program demonstrate excellent outcomes that significantly reduce the impact of this otherwise devastating disease.”

Among those appreciating the care in the unit this week is Ian Payne of Warrell Creek, who is recovering after a stroke last week and described his care as ‘pretty good’.

Most deaths relating to actual stroke tend to occur in the first week after the event, making the stroke unit a vital life-saving service.

Dr Diez Alvarez said strokes, predominantly a disease of the elderly, were also a leading cause of disability.

“Even with the best intervention, stroke still results in significant morbidity and disability,” he said.

“The best cure is prevention.”

Prevention involves appropriate cardiovascular health care – reducing smoking and obesity, lowering hypertension, cholesterol and avoiding diabetes.

Coffs Harbour’s four-bed stroke unit is fully operational and supported by a stroke care co-ordinator, clinical nurse educator, and nursing and allied health staff including positions covering physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dietician, social worker and speech pathology.

Research has shown that stroke survivors have the best outcomes when they are treated in a Stroke Unit with specialised staff.

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