When seconds count, an inland hospital is essential

Dr. Ritesh Kaushal, comprehensive stroke program medical director, Palmetto General Hospital 

For Dr. Ritesh Kaushal, the opportunity to develop a comprehensive stroke program at Palmetto General Hospital was one he felt was imperative to the community. 

"There was nothing that served western Miami-Dade County," he says. "All of the well-established stroke hospitals were by the ocean. And the population density is much higher here."

The faster a stroke is attended to, the better the outcome for the patient. Each minute makes a difference, so a comprehensive stroke program in the neighborhood is literally a lifesaver for area residents. Still, it was striking to see how important the stroke program became, right away.

"I really did not think it was going to be as busy as it has turned out to be," Dr. Kaushal says. "We were looking at doing about 90 cases a year, but by the time I finished my first year we have done over 350."

Sometimes Dr. Kaushal and the team don't even wait until a patient is on-site to begin intervention, boosting positive outcomes for patients even more.

"Emergency Medical Services sometimes calls my cell phone directly from wherever they are, and we will start before the patient arrives at the hospital. It saves a lot of time," he says. "The typical time from the onset of stroke to the point where treatment is done - which includes intervention and pulling the blood clot out of the brain - at most places is about 360 minutes. We are routinely doing it in less than 180, so in less than half the time of what the national average is. That is primarily because of awareness within the community."