SARNIA – Bluewater Health has been selected to share the successes of its clustered Acute Stroke Unit at the Canadian Stroke Congress in Calgary this fall.  The Canadian Stroke Congress is a joint initiative of the Canadian Stroke Network, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Stroke Consortium.   Linda Dykes, Manager, District Stroke Centre for Sarnia‐Lambton, will demonstrate how the hospital’s pairing of the Stroke Unit with Telemetry Medicine is proving to be an effective model for a community hospital.

“It can be challenging to establish and sustain specialty stroke care in smaller communities,” says Dykes. “Heart disease and stroke are both vascular diseases, and in Sarnia, acute stroke care has partnered with the cardiac Telemetry Medicine Unit to deliver that care.”

Clustering care for vascular conditions has benefits for patients and care providers.  “Receiving care on a specialized stroke unit, from an interprofessional team with expertise in stroke, has been shown to significantly improve a person’s survival and recovery following a stroke,” adds Dykes. ”Through this model, we have enhanced our ability to identify potential causes of the event and then determine the most appropriate actions to minimize future risk.  We are able to flex our resources within the Telemetry Unit to care for both cardiac and stroke patients. This reorganization of care was accomplished at no additional cost. We are very excited to share our successes and challenges with other health centres across the country.”

Patients with a new diagnosis of stroke are admitted to Bluewater Health’s Acute Stroke Unit, comprised of 6 beds and located on Level 4, London Building at the Sarnia hospital.  In its second year, the focus is on reviewing and refining processes, and enhancing staff expertise to provide the best in stroke care, guided by the Canadian Best Practice Recommendations for Stroke Care.  This work aligns with Bluewater Health’s focus on best practices through its three‐ year candidacy in the Registered Nurses’ of Ontario’s Best Practice Spotlight Organization initiative.

Bluewater Health was designated as a District Stroke Centre in March 2002 and a Secondary Stroke Prevention Clinic in August 2005, as part of the Ministry of Health and Long‐Term Care’s Ontario Stroke Strategy. Research shows that better diagnosis, treatment and education can dramatically reduce the number of strokes suffered by Canadians.

In the 2011/2012 fiscal year, 241 people were admitted to the Sarnia hospital after presenting to the Emergency Department with stroke symptoms. Additionally, persons who experience a ‘mini stroke’ or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) receive assessment and preventative care on an ambulatory basis through Bluewater Health’s Secondary Stroke Prevention Clinic. The Secondary Stroke Prevention Clinic saw 260 new patients during the same time frame. These out‐patients were referred from the Emergency Department and physicians in the community.

In any stroke experience, taking immediate action is key.  June is National Stroke Month, and Bluewater Health is reminding the community that stroke is a medical emergency. If you experience any of the signs and symptoms of stroke, call 911 immediately. “Calling 911 is the best way to ensure you receive the care you need as quickly as possible,” says Dykes. “Time is critical. Patients who arrive at a designated stroke centre within 3 ½ hours of symptom onset may be eligible for tPA, a clot‐busting drug.  Calling 911 ensures you are transported to the closest stroke centre wherever you are in Ontario. In Lambton County, Bluewater Health, Sarnia is the designated stroke centre for care.”

A stroke is caused by a sudden loss of function due to an interruption of blood flow to the brain.  This can result from a blockage in a blood vessel or the rupture of a vessel wall.  A TIA is a short‐term ‘mini‐stroke’ or ‘warning stroke’ that produces stroke symptoms.  A TIA is a very serious warning sign of an increased risk of stroke.

It is vital to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke and to respond immediately. These include:

  • Weakness – sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary.
  • Trouble speaking – sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary.
  • Vision problems – sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary.
  • Headache – sudden severe and unusual headache.
  • Dizziness – sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs.

Bluewater Health, with locations in Sarnia and Petrolia, is a 326‐bed community hospital that cares for the residents of Sarnia‐Lambton. With close to 2,500 staff, Professional Staff and volunteers, Bluewater Health provides an array of specialized acute, complex continuing care, allied health and ambulatory care services. State‐of‐the‐art facilities, which opened in 2010, contribute to Bluewater Health’s Mission: We create exemplary healthcare experiences for patients and families every time. For more information about Bluewater Health, visit

For additional information:

Linda Dykes
Manager, Sarnia‐Lambton District Stroke Centre
519‐464‐4400, Ext. 4465


Reference information:

Lacey Birgit
Communications Coordinator