St. Mary’s recognized for quality stroke care

July 18, 2019

St. Mary’s Hospital’s stroke program has received its 10thconsecutive Gold Plus quality achievement award from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, and another 2-year certification as a primary stroke center from The Joint Commission.

In addition, AHA/ASA named St. Mary’s to its Target: Stroke Honor Roll for the eighth year in a row. All three awards recognize St. Mary’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment in accordance with nationally recognized, research-based guidelines.

“Since our ministry’s first Joint Commission stroke certification in 2004, St. Mary’s has continued to make tremendous progress in the fight against stroke,” said President and CEO Montez Carter. “The tools and resources provided by these programs help us track and measure our success in meeting evidence-based clinical guidelines. It’s a rigorous process that we voluntarily undertake so that we can provide our patients and communities with the best stroke care possible.”

The AHA/ASA Gold Plus Award recognizes St. Mary’s for meeting quality measurements for the rapid diagnosis of stroke and the proper use of medications and other treatments. The goal is to speed recovery and reduce the risk of death and disability. Before discharge, patients also receive education on managing their health to help prevent another stroke and get scheduled for a follow-up visit with a neurologist.

The Target: Stroke Honor Roll indicates that St. Mary’s meets AHA/ASA measures developed to reduce the time between the patient’s arrival and treatment with the clot-busting drug Alteplase. When administered within a narrow window of time after symptoms appear, Alteplase can often dissolve the blood clots that cause most strokes. Many patients recover fully or with only minor deficits.

The Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval recognizes St. Mary’s for providing clinical programs across the continuum of care from prevention to post-stroke follow-up. Joint Commission surveyors performed a rigorous on-site review of St. Mary’s program, including detailed case studies, in-person observations, and interviews with physicians, staff and patients. Surveyors particularly focused on compliance with guidelines for diagnostics, medication safety, door-to-needle times, inpatient care, rehabilitation, and post-discharge care.

In addition to providing Alteplase in stroke emergencies, St. Mary’s also is the only hospital in Northeast Georgia with the ability to perform mechanical thrombectomy, provided in partnership with Neil Woodall, MD, during most weekday hours. Mechanical thrombectomy uses minimally invasive techniques to physically remove large-vessel blood clots that may be too big for Alteplase to dissolve.

“Very few hospitals outside of major urban areas have the kind of stroke care capabilities we offer at St. Mary’s,” Carter said. “Implementing and maintaining this high-level program requires continuous commitment and dedication from our Board, our leadership, our medical staff and our colleagues. We are honored to achieve these recognitions year after year.”

According to the AHA/ASA, stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States. On average, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and nearly 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

Stroke symptoms appear suddenly. Fast action is required because a stroke can kill up to 2 million brain cells a minute. Call 911 as soon as symptoms appear:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking; dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause


For more information about St. Mary’s, visit

For more information about the AHA/ASA, visit

For more information about the Joint Commission, visit


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