Durban stroke treatment facility acknowledged by international initiative

Dr Patty Francis (second from left), a neurologist who practises at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital, was honoured with the Angels ‘Spirit of Excellence’ award. Dr Francis won the individual award for her dedication and commitment to stroke care in South Africa, while Netcare uMhlanga Hospital’s stroke team was recognised for its clinical outcomes for stroke patients. Dr Francis is with Netcare uMhlanga Hospital general manager, Marc van Heerden (left); nursing services manager, Sr Belinda Lehnerdt; and S2 unit manager, Asha Naidoo.

Dedicated multi-disciplinary stroke care saves lives

Netcare uMhlanga Hospital near Durban has been recognised as a leading stroke facility in South Africa by the Angels Initiative, an international project that aims to improve acute stroke care.

The hospital, together with Dr Patty Francis, one of three neurologists who manage the dedicated acute stroke service at the hospital, received Angels ‘Spirit of Excellence’ awards at an Angels Initiative conference held in Durban recently. Dr Francis won the individual award for her dedication and commitment to stroke care in South Africa, while Netcare uMhlanga Hospital’s stroke team was recognised for its clinical outcomes for stroke patients.

“These awards represent an outstanding achievement by the dedicated, multi-disciplinary stroke facility at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital,” says Jacques du Plessis, managing director of the Netcare Hospital division. “The accolades also highlight the tremendous efforts that the doctors and staff members at the hospital have put into creating a leading local, and internationally comparable, acute stroke care facility. On behalf of Netcare I would like to congratulate both the hospital and Dr Francis on being recognised in this way.”

Du Plessis pointed out that stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in South Africa. It has, however, repeatedly been demonstrated that prompt and appropriate treatment at a dedicated, multi-disciplinary stroke facility, such as that established at the KwaZulu-Natal hospital, can substantially reduce disability and mortality among those who are affected.

“The Angels Initiative is doing superb work internationally, and has made excellent progress in its efforts to create facilities where the quality of treatment provided to stroke patients is optimised,” he observes.

Dr Francis says that she was “taken completely by surprise” when the awards were announced at the recent Angels Initiative conference held in Durban recently.

“After years of dedication in pursuit of developing a facility that could provide stroke patients with the cutting-edge medical treatment they so deserve, it is deeply gratifying for the team to have been recognised in this way.

“The multi-disciplinary stroke team that we have established at the hospital including doctors, therapists, nursing professionals and administrative staff, all have the common goal of providing our stroke patients with world-class treatment. While we will always be striving to achieve even better outcomes for our stroke patients, the team has been inspired to even greater heights by these awards,” adds Dr Francis.

The Angels Initiative, which is funded by international pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim, comprises an international steering committee of neurologists with stroke treatment expertise. In South Africa, where the initiative was formally launched late in 2016, there is a steering committee consisting of neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, and emergency medical specialists.

Angels Stroke Consultant, Kim Shuttleworth, says, “Netcare uMhlanga Hospital has made considerable efforts and has demonstrated that their multi-disciplinary team can provide a standard of stroke care that is comparable to other facilities anywhere in the world.

“Unusually for South Africa, the hospital’s stroke service has the expertise, facilities and technology to also provide treatment for haemorrhagic stroke, which is when there is bleeding from a blood vessel in the brain.

“Dr Francis has not only been instrumental and a prime-mover behind this particular facility, but has made an invaluable contribution to stroke care in South Africa. The awards to both Dr Francis and the hospital are most richly deserved,” Shuttleworth observes.

According to Shuttleworth, the Angels Initiative, which is endorsed locally by among others the SA Stroke Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, could be said to have originally grown out of South Africa the concept the brainchild of an executive at Boehringer Ingelheim at the time. The concept was a considerable success and was taken to Europe where the Angels Initiative was born.

At the conference, Dr Francis was invited to present two academic papers, namely on Decision-making in acute stroke, and Transient ischemic attack in the acute setting. Dr John Naidoo and Dr Christo Coetzee, a neurosurgeon and neurologist respectively, who also practise at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital’s stroke care facility, presented papers on Haemorrhagic stroke and Secondary prevention of stroke. According to Shuttleworth, these presentations were all most informative and were well received.

“The staff and management of Netcare uMhlanga Hospital are immensely proud of the achievements of our stroke facility and of these awards. The facility has been single-minded in its determination to provide the best possible care to our stroke patients, and these acknowledgements have been well earned,” concludes Marc van Heerden, general manager of the hospital.