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Wednesday, Feb 12 2014 06:00 AM

Telemedicine may aid local stroke victims

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CEO of San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield, Doug Duffield, presents to members of the public and the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District. San Joaquin Community Hospital is one of two provider candidates offering emergency medicine stroke services to Tehachapi Hospital via robotic telemedicine. Scott Camp / Tehachapi News

When a medical patient is showing signs of a stroke, every second is vital in administering treatment.

The Tehachapi Valley Hospital may soon be delivering emergency stroke services for Tehachapi residents, who in the past, would have to travel more than 40 minutes before receiving time-sensitive care.

Members of the public and medical staff from Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District gathered at the Tehachapi Area Association of Realtors meeting room on Thursday, Feb. 6, to hear a presentation from representatives of San Joaquin Community Hospital, one of two provider candidates from Bakersfield -- along with Bakersfield Memorial Hospital -- offering its emergency medicine stroke services to local residents.

Tehachapi Hospital Interim CEO Evan Rayner said the future service that would be an important development for the acute care hospital.

Rayner said utilizing this service would significantly decrease outpatient migration to other areas, increase revenue for the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District, and provide emergency treatment in a timely manner.

Once the services of one of the hospitals providing proposals is acquired, patients would receive emergency stroke services via robotic telemedicine.

The three-party system would provide patients with immediate access to stroke and neurology specialists in remote areas via audio and video. From there, the specialists would be able to diagnose pateients, check heart rates, monitor CT scans, and direct local doctors in treatment.

According to the representatives of San Joaquin Community Hospital, approximately 800,000 strokes are reported in the U.S. each year. Strokes are the third leading cause of death and the number one cause of morbidity, officials said.

Delaying timely treatment in cases of stroke can create long-term complications and even result in death if not responded to correctly.

"You do better when you have care closer to home," said Doug Duffield, CEO of San Joaquin Community Hospital.

He added that educating the public on the signs and symptoms of stroke is also key.

Also present at the meeting were Dr. Don Cornforth, Chief Nursing Officer Margaret White, Senior Vice President Kurt Hoekendorf, and Director Michelle Hartshorn.

Adventist Health, which is owns San Joaquin Community Hospital, operates 19 acute care hospitals throughout the U.S.

Representatives of Bakersfield Memorial Hospital will present its services at the Tehachapi Area Association of Realtors meeting room, 803 Tucker Rd., at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

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