Two St. Mary’s hospitals nationally recognized for commitment to high-quality stroke care

August 16, 2023

St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens and St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital in Lavonia have received the American Heart Association’s 2023 Get With The Guidelines® – Stroke Gold Plus quality achievement award for their commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines, ultimately leading to more lives saved and reduced disability.


St. Mary’s has received the Association’s Gold Plus award for stroke care continuously since 2009. Sacred Heart Hospital received its first Gold Plus award for achieving 24 consecutive months of compliance after receiving the Gold Award in 2022 for 12 consecutive months of compliance.


In addition, both hospitals received the Association’s Target: StrokeSM Elite award and were named to the Target: Type 2 Diabetes℠ Honor Roll.


“I am extremely proud of our system’s colleagues and providers,” said Stonish Pierce, President and CEO of Trinity Health Georgia, which includes St. Mary’s Health Care System. “It takes a tremendous amount of commitment, dedication and teamwork to achieve and maintain such a high level of quality 24/7 for months and years at a time.”


Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so brain cells die. Early stroke detection and treatment are key to improving survival, minimizing disability and accelerating recovery times.


Get With The Guidelines puts the expertise of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association to work for hospitals nationwide, helping ensure patient care is aligned with the latest research and evidence-based guidelines. Get With The Guidelines – Stroke is an in-hospital program for improving stroke care by promoting consistent adherence to these guidelines, which can minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death.


Each year, program participants qualify for the American Heart Association’s stroke awards by demonstrating how their organization has committed to providing quality care for stroke patients. In addition to following treatment guidelines, Get With The Guidelines participants also educate patients to help them manage their health and recovery at home.


To qualify for the Target: Stroke recognition, hospitals must meet specific criteria that reduce the time between an eligible patient’s arrival at the hospital and treatment with the clot-busting drug tenecteplase. In addition to medication therapy, St. Mary’s Hospital also provides 24/7 emergency access to cerebral thrombectomy, which physically removes the large vessel blockages that cause many major strokes.


The Target: Type 2 Diabetes award aims to ensure patients with Type 2 diabetes, who might be at higher risk for complications, receive the most up-to-date, evidence-based care when hospitalized due to stroke.


“We are incredibly pleased to recognize St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital for their commitment to caring for patients with stroke,” said Steven Messe, M.D., volunteer chairperson of the American Heart Association Stroke System of Care Advisory Group and professor of neurology and director of fellowships of neurology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “Participation in Get With The Guidelines is associated with improved patient outcomes, fewer readmissions and lower mortality rates – a win for health care systems, families and communities.”


“Our entire ministry is committed to improving patient care by adhering to the latest treatment guidelines,” Pierce said. “Get With The Guidelines makes it easier for our teams to put proven knowledge and guidelines to work on a daily basis. Studies show that care in compliance with these guidelines can help patients recover better. The end goal is to ensure more people in Northeast Georgia can experience longer, healthier lives.”