Stroke patients will have access to “the best possible chance at full recovery”, thanks to a link-up between the Bermuda Hospitals Board and Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The move, welcomed as a “dream come true” by campaigners, will see a primary stroke centre established in Bermuda, with accreditation for acute stroke care in place by 2021.
The clinical affiliation with the Maryland-based medical institute will also include improvements in psychiatric care, a continuing medical education programme for physicians in Bermuda and a residency programme.
Michael Richmond, Chief of Staff at the BHB, told a press conference: “Stroke treatment and rehabilitation is a key focus. We have four to five stroke cases come to the hospital per week.
“We want to ensure we are giving every stroke patient the best possible chance at full recovery, and also identifying people at risk even earlier to try and prevent one altogether.
“We are also looking at psychiatry for opportunities to improve and find more effective ways to structure and deliver our services.”
Dr Richmond said the aim was to provide treatment that matches “the best of the best”.
The agreement with Johns Hopkins will cost $1.6 million over two years.
Mark Selley, chairman of the Bermuda Family Stroke Association, said of the plans for a stroke centre: “It would be like a dream come true.”
Mr Selley said that he had lobbied for 26 years for a stroke unit that also deals with road traffic accidents and neurological problems, but that they were “placed on the back burner”.
He added: “I am happy to see this arrangement. If the BHB can team up with Johns Hopkins, we would be so far ahead in the game.”
Mr Selley pointed out that the longer it took for stroke patients to get the help needed, the less likely they were to recover.
He said rehabilitation by trained specialists was important in the first few days after a stroke.
“Like chemo is key to cancer treatment, rehab is key to stroke treatment,” he said.
Mr Selley said a local centre that addressed all the needs of a stroke patient would also reduce travel costs.
Mr Richmond said quality access to education for doctors was also an important part of the agreement.
He said: “Our Continuing Medical Education programme is now accredited by one of the world’s best known and highly respected healthcare providers, and our first CME was held last night.”
Venetta Symonds, CEO of the BHB, said: “I’m excited that we are on this journey to improve on-island care for our families, friend and communities with them.
“It is BHB’s vision to deliver exceptional through strong partnerships and support a healthy community.
“We ran a robust and lengthy RFP process for our clinical affiliate and six highly acclaimed hospitals applied and went through extensive review.
“Johns Hopkins won not only due to their quality and status in the healthcare world, but their deep affinity to and understanding of Bermuda.”
Mohan Chellappa, executive vice-president and president of Global Ventures, Johns Hopkins Medicine International, said: “We are honoured to contribute to the Bermudian healthcare journey.
“Johns Hopkins Medicine’s mission is to improve the health of the community and the world by setting the standard of excellence in medical education, research and patient care. And the unique community of Bermuda holds a special place in our hearts at Johns Hopkins.”
He pointed out that one of Johns Hopkins’ best doctors, Malcolm Brock, was from Bermuda.
He said: “We will support BHB staff with education and training and, together, we’re now in the process of establishing a primary stroke centre and preparing for accreditation in the area of acute stroke care in 2021.”
The affiliation includes a programme for medical doctors who have graduated from an accredited medical school and are completing additional specialist training at Johns Hopkins.
Those doctors will complete four-week rotations to Bermuda to perform short-term clinical and quality improvement projects.
Dr Chellappa said: “Our clinical affiliation with Bermuda Hospitals Board is an important part of Johns Hopkins’s vision to enhance healthcare around the world, by sharing our latest clinical advances and research findings in a way that contributes to local healthcare needs and goals, for many years to come.”