[googlefont font=”Open Sans” size=”18px” margin=”10px 0 20px 0″]Five per cent realize paramedics know which hospitals are best equipped to provide stroke care[/googlefont]

JUNE 29, 2015 – Only one quarter of Canadians understand the essential role paramedics play in stroke care and treatment, says a study released recently by the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF).

According to the HSF 2015 Stroke Report, Access to Stroke Care – The Critical First Hours, most Canadians do not have a clear understanding of the essential role paramedics play in stroke care and treatment. When asked why it is important to call an ambulance in the case of a suspected stroke, only one-third of respondents stated this was because stroke is an urgent condition requiring immediate action. Even fewer – only one-quarter – responded that ambulances can get to the hospital faster, and only one-quarter said paramedics can start clinical assessment, treatment and care at the scene.

Even more troubling, only five per cent of respondents said they realize paramedics know which hospitals are best equipped to provide stroke care. You can view a list of stroke centres in Ontario here.

Data from the Ontario Stroke Network’s (OSN) 2014 Ontario Stroke Evaluation Report shows almost 58 per cent of people admitted to hospital for stroke arrived by ambulance. This number is an improvement from previous years, but is still too low. The HSF poll shows Canadians need to be more aware of the expertise paramedics bring to the critical first hours of stroke care, so they understand why calling 9-1-1 for a suspected stroke is so important.

“Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability in Canada. More than 25,000 Ontarians experience a stroke every year and over 100,000 are living with the consequences of stroke,” said OSN Executive Director Christina O’Callaghan. “The OSN is working with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care,  Local Health Integration Networks and Ontario’s 11 Regional Stroke Networks to help the public recognize the signs of stroke and to call 9-1-1 when the signs appear.”

One of OSN’s priorities is to have all Ontarians learn the FAST signs of stroke. FAST stands for: Face – is it drooping? Armscan you raise both? Speech – is it slurred or jumbled? And Time, to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency service right away. You can learn more about FAST here.

The Ontario Stroke Network collaborated with the Ministry of Health and the provincial paramedic association to develop the training for paramedics across Ontario to recognize the signs of stroke and play a key role in the critical first hours of stroke care.


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[googlefont font=”Open Sans” size=”16px” margin=”10px 0 20px 0″]WARNING SIGNS OF STROKE[/googlefont]

Think FAST; recognize and react to the warning signs of stroke:

[googlefont font=”Open Sans” size=”18px”]F[/googlefont] (facial droop)
[googlefont font=”Open Sans” size=”18px”]A[/googlefont] (arm weakness)
[googlefont font=”Open Sans” size=”18px”]S[/googlefont] (speech slurred or garbled)
[googlefont font=”Open Sans” size=”18px”]T[/googlefont] (time to call 9-1-1)

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Stroke Facts

  • Stroke is a leading cause of death in Canada
  • Ischemic stroke is caused when blood flow to the brain is blocked
  • In stroke, time equals brain. Each minute the brain is not receiving blood flow, about 1.9 million brain cells die
  • When a stroke occurs, there is a need to call 9-1-1 immediately
  • Stroke is the leading cost of serious long-term disability in adults
  • Stroke can happen at any age
  • Increasing evidence indicates that lifestyle modifications can reduce the risk of stroke

Image © Massachusetts General Hospital.



Additionally, OSN funded research on the protocol for stroke used by paramedics showed over 97 per cent accuracy. Paramedics assess patients for an acute stroke, address urgent health needs such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar; and gather important information such as when the patient was last known to be well in order to establish the initial time of the stroke; and record existing health conditions, medications, and allergies.

Once paramedics determine a patient is likely having stroke symptoms, paramedics begin a management regime which includes monitoring vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen levels) and checking blood sugar levels. Paramedics’ stroke protocol allows them to bypass hospitals to bring patients directly to a designated stroke centre.

“Over the past 10 years there has been more research conducted around how paramedic services can help with early identification of stroke patients, and how to engage other healthcare partners,” says Paul Charbonneau, president, Paramedic Chiefs of Canada. “Paramedic services are a huge workforce of highly skilled individuals who are now active stakeholders in supporting stroke teams in providing rapid clinical assessments, and helping determine which hospital is appropriate for the stroke patient based on their immediate needs.”

Data shows that, in Ontario, 88 per cent of the population are able to reach a stroke centre by ground ambulance within three-and-one-half hours of calling 9-1-1 to determine eligibility to receive time-sensitive treatment that may improve a stroke patient’s chance of a full recovery.

Did You Know?†

  • Only one-third of Canadians are able to describe what a stroke is.
  • Not enough Canadians recognize the signs of stroke. Almost half did not know any of the three FAST signs of stroke; and one-third could name one sign.
  • Only one-third of Canadians are aware that only some hospitals are designated stroke centres equipped to provide the best stroke care possible.
  • Canadians have a key role to play in early stroke management by recognizing the three FAST signs and calling 9-1-1 or their local emergency medical services immediately.


The Ontario Stroke Network provides provincial leadership and planning for the continuum of stroke care in Ontario—from health promotion and stroke prevention to acute care, recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration.


The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every Canadian family, every day. Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen. www.heartandstroke.ca


Patrick Moore
Communications Manager, Ontario Stroke Network
(c) 416-455-7394

† From Access to Stroke Care: The Critical First Hours.