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Local hospitals earn recertification as Primary Stroke Centers

The Joint Commission, in collaboration with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, has granted St. Catherine Hospital, East Chicago, and St. Mary Medical Center, Hobart, recertification as Primary Stroke Centers. The designation, effective for two years, recognizes the hospitals’ staff for their commitment and success in treating stroke patients with the most appropriate timely care in accordance with national guidelines and preventive education.

“St. Mary Medical Center staff understands the importance of early recognition and treatment of every stroke patient who comes through our doors,” said CEO Janice Ryba. “Recertification as a Primary Stroke Center further reinforces our team’s commitment and expertise in delivering stroke treatments promptly and safely, and shows that we are making a difference in the lives of our patients.”

“It takes an accomplished team of professionals working together to ensure that more people not just survive a stroke, but recover with as few lasting complications as possible,” said Leo Correa, CEO, St. Catherine Hospital. “We are proud of our team’s dedication to quality care. When it comes to stroke, timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment often means the difference between life and death.”

Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds; someone dies of a stroke every four minutes and 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

In Northwest Indiana, improving stroke care is a priority as spelled out by the findings in the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by local hospitals. Stroke is among the three leading causes of death in Indiana as of 2017, according to the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH).

Currently there are only 38 primary stroke centers across the state, including St. Catherine Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center. In addition to those facilities, only five are designated as comprehensive stroke centers (three of which also are certified by The Joint Commission, including Community Hospital, Munster). Community Healthcare System hospitals work together to bring the utmost timely intervention with the most effective treatment to each patient.

When Emergency Medical Services or EMS receive a stroke alert from the field, they used established rapid triage and transfer protocols to take patients to the closest hospital best equipped to treat the appropriate level of stroke symptoms.

St. Catherine Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center’s advanced stroke teams combine expertise to assess and determine a plan of care and treatment within minutes through Community Healthcare System’s telestroke network. Using enhanced video technology (stroke telemedicine) Community Healthcare System’s board certified vascular neurologists are brought virtually to the patient’s bedside for a stroke assessment via a mobile robot system. At assessment, it is determined if IV tissue plasminogen activators or tPA should be administered for treatment. This tPA protein works to break down blood clots. However, even with medication, some clots require a higher level of intervention. When advanced intervention is necessary, complex stroke patients are transported to nearby Community Hospital, the closest comprehensive stroke center.

“As a system, we are united in the battle against stroke,” said Jill Conner, RN, administrative director Neuroscience, Cerebrovascular and Structural Health Services, Community Healthcare System. “Working with our EMS providers and our healthcare colleagues across Northwest Indiana, we are able to significantly improve the outcomes of patients who have had an acute ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke.”

In addition to inpatient care for stroke patients, the hospitals offer a full continuum of stroke treatment, rehabilitation, support and intensive inpatient rehabilitation at St. Catherine Hospital, St. Mary Medical Center and our newest location, Community Stroke & Rehabilitation Center in Crown Point. Ongoing education for patients and families plus free stroke support groups also are available to all stroke patients.

For more information about stroke care at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, visit

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