Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital announced Monday that it has earned an Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers from the Joint Commission, a leading health care accreditation agency.

This certification makes the city’s hospital the only stroke-certified center on the Central Coast between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. The hospital joins the ranks of distinguished stroke centers at Cedars Sinai, UCLA, Stanford and UCSF, which also have earned this coveted certification.

Stroke is the second leading cause of death in Santa Barbara County, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health statistics. Stroke is the number one leading cause of disability in the United States.

The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers recognizes centers that make exceptional efforts to foster better outcomes for stroke care. Achievement of certification signifies that the services provided by Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital have the critical elements to achieve long-term success in improving outcomes for patients.

“It is the best signal to the community that the quality care (Cottage Hospital provides) is effectively managed to meet the unique and specialized needs of stroke patients,” according to a statement from the Joint Commission.

The lengthy certification process started about four years ago, said Lorie Loomis, RN and clinical nurse manager of neuroscience at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. The path to certification began with a combined multidisciplinary vision that included the stroke neurologists, the nursing and quality departments, and significant support from hospital administration, she explained.

Together, this team focused on the continuum of care for stroke patients — from outreach education, to emergency intervention, to the acute patient care stay, then onto rehabilitation and finally back to the community.

“The Advanced JC Stroke Certification is just one in a series of steps that Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is undertaking in its development of a neuroscience institute.  The institute will embody best practice, state of the art equipment, research and physician expertise in the pursuit of the highest patient outcomes possible for neuro patients,” said Gary Milgram, service line director for neuroscience at the hospital.

In addition to its Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers distinction, the hospital also offers the only neuroendovascular surgeon and the only critical care neuro intensivist on the Central Coast.  These physicians work with a specialized medical team to offer the highest level of care and state-of-the-art technology.

“Eighty (80) percent of strokes are preventable,” said Zarith Alvarado, the hospital’s’ stroke coordinator. “Education is the key. People need to know their risk factors for stroke so they can do something about it.”

Stroke Facts:

» Every 45 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke.

» Stroke is the nation’s No. 3 cause of death and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability. (For Santa Barbara County, stroke ranks as the No. 3 leading cause of death, and No. 1 cause of disability.)

» About 700,000 Americans will have a stroke this year and approximately 24 percent will die from it.

» Eighty percent of strokes are preventable. Education is key to avoiding a stroke.

Click here for more information on the Joint Commission.

— Maria Zate is Cottage Health System’s marketing and public affairs manager.