Australians are being denied the latest advancements in stroke treatment, with hospitals ill-equipped to deliver around the clock access to life-saving clot-retrieval surgery, the Stroke Foundation says.
Stroke Foundation data has revealed three states and territories do not provide 24 hour access to the time critical, proven treatment, and there is only one comprehensive stroke centre currently operating in Australia. These latest figures have added to a growing body of evidence demonstrating Australian stroke care is failing to meet even basic standards, the Foundation says.
In launching Tackling the rising tide today, the Stroke Foundation alongside a delegation of stroke survivors, carers and health professionals descended on Canberra to call for an urgent $44 million investment to address the gaps in stroke care.
The delegation challenged the Turnbull Government to capitalise on Australian-led innovation or risk more lives by falling even further behind international standards.
Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan says despite Australian researchers being the brains behind development of radical new stroke treatments, including clot-retrieval, our system lacks the support and resources to ensure even basic care was made widely available.
“It is a tragedy that only a small percentage of Australian stroke patients are getting access to the latest treatments and innovation that we know save lives,” McGowan says.
“Not only is access to clot retrieval surgery (endovascular) low but why are only 7% of ischemic stroke patients getting clot busting drugs, which have been considered standard treatment for over a decade?
“Why is there is only one comprehensive stroke service in Australia – there should be one in every state?
“Four in every ten stroke patients are denied access to stroke unit care each year. This is woeful compared with access rates in the UK, which currently sit at around 83%. Australia could be a world-leader in stroke care, but after decades of neglect we are lagging behind countries like America and the UK.
“We have come to Canberra to offer the Health Minister an enormous opportunity to make a difference. A modest $44 million investment will start addressing the urgent gaps in stroke care that cost lives, devastate families and add significant unnecessary cost to the health budget,” she says.
World Stroke Organisation President Professor Stephen Davis says it is vital the Government prepares our hospital system for a rising tide of stroke linked to our ageing population.
“There have been dramatic changes in acute stroke therapies, including the use of clot retrieval devices. Australia has some of the leading minds working in the field of stroke but our underfunded stroke care system fails to capitalise on this expertise,” Prof Davis says.
“Stroke is potentially preventable and treatable. The current gaps in care and inconsistency of the Australian stroke care system is a patient safety issue. With an ageing population and subsequent projected increase in stroke, things are only going to get worse unless something is done now.
“It is vital we use the latest technologies and therapies to have a tangible impact on the health and wellbeing of Australian patients, particularly for those in regional and rural areas.
“With targeted investment the Government can reduce the impact of stroke, improve the quality of care, and give survivors the support and information they desperately need,” he said.
McGowan says 2016 is a significant year for stroke as it marks 20 years since Australian governments made the killer disease a national health priority.
“It is predicted that in 2016 more than eleven thousand Australians will lose their lives to stroke, and countless more will be left with significant disability,” McGowan says.
“In 20 years there has been no funding for a national stroke strategy. Stroke has cost hundreds of thousands of lives over that time period – how many more do we have to lose before something is done? We need leadership from this Government to put stroke on the COAG table so that together we can develop a national plan to close gaps in stroke care permanently.
“It is time for all parties to wake up to the reality of the nation’s stroke burden. After twenty years of inaction it is time for stroke.”