A CORK University Hospital consultant has issued an urgent appeal for donations to fund the development of a new stroke unit.
Consultant geriatrician, Dr Liam Healy is also hopeful that increased staffing levels and a full-time thrombectomy service will help CUH's stroke facility lead the way internationally.
CUH currently has the busiest inpatient stroke service in Ireland with more than 500 confirmed stroke patients each year. The new Stroke Unit will boast a therapy suite to provide improved and quicker inpatient rehab for its patients.
"Strokes are the second biggest killer worldwide and the third biggest killer in a developed countries like Ireland," Dr Healy said.
"Any money invested in stroke care will only be repaid by improving people's levels of function and independence. This means limiting their stay in hospital and reducing the level of care they will ultimately need when they leave hospital."
"For an investment of a few million we would be able to transform the stroke unit we have into a world-leading service. One of our aims is to get external accreditation from the European Stroke Organisation. This would offer great reassurance to our patients and their families that they are getting the best care possible."
Plans to improve the stroke unit also include a 24-hour thrombectomy service - which involves removing a blood clot through mechanical means - are still underway.
"CUH is the biggest stroke hospital in the country. We see about 500 people who present with a confirmed stroke and 500 people with stroke symptoms that might-after investigation-turn out to be something else. If CUH is going to evolve into a regional thrombectomy service then it makes sense that this should happen. It just means we need the right people in place. "
"In terms of our current service, we have two interventional neuroradiologists who provide an excellent service from Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm. The plan is to find a third person by next year. We had advertised our post earlier this year but the post wasn't filled. The plan is that we will move to 24/7 service once we have a third neuroradiologist. This would benefit not just us but other hospitals in Kerry, Waterford and Tipperary."
He emphasised the importance of treating a stroke on time.
"People's ability to access the service is limited by the fact that it is not 24/7. Anything up to 24 hours would be an extreme case. The message that we're trying to get through to people is the earlier the better. The quicker the appropriate neurological investigations take place, the quicker they can come to a decision about whether a thrombectomy is a suitable option."
He explained the situations where a thrombectomy is necessary.
"There are two kinds of strokes-one includes a clot in one of the blood vessels carrying blood to the brain or a leakage or bleed in this blood vessels. 85 pc of cases are caused by a clot. If that clot is big enough affecting a large artery that a thrombectomy can be effective."
Dr Healy stressed that when it comes to strokes every situation is unique.
"It's all about replacing time with sophisticated brain imaging so that we can try and identify people who would still benefit outside of the prespecified time window. Some people might still be eligible for a thrombectomy 20 hours after a stroke because of the way the blood vessels in their heads are configured.
It's not that there is a black and white time window. Now we have more sophisticated radiological tests that will determine if we can intervene and help someone or not. We are doing everything we can to try to evolve to a 24-hours service. Our next big plan is to improve our dedicated stroke unit, expanding the number of beds from 12 to 25. Our hope is to improve our staffing levels with more doctors, nurses and physiotherapists so we can start rehabilitating people as soon as they're inside the door."
To donate to the Stroke Unit Appeal or find out more about the charity visit https://www.cuhcharity.ie/