Meritus Medical Center earns national awards, recognition for care

Your Health Matters

Meritus Medical Center has received two American Heart Association Achievement Awards for implementing quality improvement measures that ensure cardiovascular patients receive efficient and coordinated care, ultimately leading to more lives saved, shorter recovery times and fewer returns to the hospital.

Meritus Medical Center received the Mission Lifeline, Gold level in STEMI receiving, and the Get with the Guidelines, Gold Plus level, for stroke honor roll and type 2 diabetes honor roll.

“We are honored to be recognized by the American Heart Association for our dedication to helping our patients have the best possible chance of survival and recovery after cardiovascular events,” said Carrie Adams, Chief Operating Officer for Meritus Health.

The coronavirus pandemic brought to the forefront the essential need for expert care, as the volume of patients presenting with possible stroke symptoms increased. Meritus Health was already prepared with excellent teams and processes in place.

According to Dr. Samina Anwar, a neurologist and medical director of the stroke program at Meritus Medical Center, the increase in cases is due to several reasons.

First, like many other health care issues, is the delay in care during the pandemic. People who had minor symptoms or were at a higher risk, would often delay care due to the fear of going to the hospital in the early days of the pandemic when much about COVID-19 was largely unknown.

“We’ve concluded that for many people who had minor stroke-like-symptoms, they were fearful of coming to the hospital. They were afraid of getting COVID as a secondary inflection,” Anwar said, adding that due to patients not seeking care, this meant the number of stroke cases at the onset of the pandemic initially dropped.

The second reason is that working from home, and stay-at-home orders, resulted in a much more sedentary lifestyle for many groups of people.

“There was a general negligence to take care of things like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart issues,” Anwar said.

There’s also COVID-19 itself.

“COVID-19 itself increases the risk of stroke, because it is a systemic disease,” Anwar said. “It involves the vascular system of our body, and there is inflammation in the blood vessels. It makes the blood more coagulable, which increases the risk of blood vessels being blocked, and in turn, stroke.”

As cases of COVID-19 began to improve, the number of stroke cases began to increase. According to Anwar, if patients are reluctant to come to the hospital when they experience stroke symptoms, as time passes, the treatment options quickly diminish.

“We had been seeing twice the normal death numbers related to stroke complications, because patients were not coming to seek medical treatment right away. Then by the time they were having a full-blown stroke, it was too late for acute treatment,” she said.

Meritus Medical Center has been serving the community as a primary stroke center since 2007, and is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center telestroke program.

The American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline and Get With The Guidelines programs help reduce barriers to prompt treatment for cardiovascular events. Meritus Medical Center applied for the award recognitions by demonstrating how their organization has committed to improving quality care for patients.