Nanaimo neurologist on a mission to speed up stroke care

NANAIMO – Patients no longer have to go to Victoria to access stroke specialists.

Dr. Martin Suttonbrown

A new Nanaimo neurologist is on a mission to speed up care, knowing time isn’t on the side of stroke patients.

Dr. Martin Suttonbrown opened Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s first stroke prevention clinic, meant to diagnose strokes faster.

Before the new Stroke Rapid Assessment Clinic opened in May, Victoria was the only place doctors could refer patients suspected of having suffered a stroke.

An assessment clinic aims to prevent another stroke and permanent disability, getting people the tests and treatment quickly including same-day ultrasounds. The highest risk for a second stroke is within the first two days.

But not everyone, especially the elderly, want to go to south, said Suttonbrown, adding some have difficulty arranging rides or can’t drive. Those who were prepared to go the distance faced wait lists before the Nanaimo clinic opened and people believed to be at lower risk of a stroke were never seen at all because there wasn’t the capacity to address all referrals.

Neither clinic has a wait list, said Suttonbrown, who previously worked at the Victoria clinic, and chose to work in Nanaimo as Island Health recognized a need for improved stroke care.

“Trying to get patients in quickly is critical and so if they have to think about how are they going to get a ride, even if it adds a day or two, that could mean the difference between them having another stroke or not,” he said, adding proximity is a large factor in getting people to a clinic quickly enough.

The new clinic is make-shift, little more than a desk, bed and computer in a corner of the hospital’s Admission and Discharge Unit, but it’s busy and growing with another doctor added since May. There has been 241 patients seen in its first fourth months and 90 to 100 referrals over October and November.

Doctors refer patients suffering from dizziness or speech problems to the clinic and specialists have to figure out who had a stroke and are at risk for another, and who have other benign conditions. It’s all about being selective with resources, efficiency and reducing strokes.

“If we can avoid a stroke that is so much more powerful than really anything else we can do once they’ve had a stroke,” said Suttonbrown.

Suttonbrown is also working with emergency room doctors to provide a clot-busting drug to acute stroke patients, something not routinely administered before.

The new neurologist is among specialists Island Health is attracting to replace retiring doctors and offer services previously only in Victoria and Vancouver. Dr. Drew Digney, executive medical director for the central Island region, said 10 to 20 per cent of the population growth is expected to happen in the North and central Island and it’s time to put the people where the people are.

Island Health is in the process of looking for a gastroenterologist, a doctor who deals with the stomach, intestines, liver and gall bladder.

Just Posted

City in holding pattern following this week’s court ruling regarding Discontent City

City of Nanaimo’s legal counsel unsure when ruling will be made

Nanaimo’s VIEX country fair about to begin

Organizers, volunteers set for fair Aug. 17-19 at Beban Park

Former Nanaimo CAO Tracy Samra now working for First Nation in Vancouver

Ex-city manager listed as Musqueam chief administrative officer, according to NEB filing

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Citizens have right to protest tent city however they wish

Here’s a reality check to virtue signallers and social justice warriors, says letter writer

Nanaimo city councillor Bill Yoachim to leave municipal politics

Second-highest vote getter in previous civic election will not seek re-election in October

Kim XO is Black Press Media’s fashionista

Starting Sept. 7, stylist Kim XO will host Fashion Fridays on the Life channel on Black Press Meida

Beefs & Bouquets, Aug. 16

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

Minister optimistic after 2 days of Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Canadian and U.S. officials met in Nelson Wednesday and Thursday to discuss future of the treaty

Man dies in B.C. police cell while awaiting court hearing

An independent investigation is underway after a man died while in Penticton police custody Aug. 16

RCMP appeal for tips, dashcam footage in German tourist shooting west of Calgary

The Durango crashed into the ditch after the shooting near the Goodstoney Rodeo Centre

2 nurses attacked at B.C. psych hospital, union calls for in-unit security

PHSA says that in-unit guards would do more harm than good

Former B.C. optician won’t be jailed for sexually assaulting minor

Kenneth Pilkington sentenced to 24 months’ probation for offence three decades ago

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

Most Read