Massachusetts Senate passes bill ensuring stroke patients are taken to best hospital, not closest

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate voted on Thursday to support a bill that would ensure stroke patients get the best treatment as quickly as possible.

The bill, which passed in a 40-0 vote, would allow first responders to transport stroke patients to the facilities best-equipped to treat them, rather than the closest, ensuring they immediately get the care that could save their lives and prevent disability.

In Massachusetts, first responders are required by law to take stroke patients to the closest hospital, regardless of the stroke’s severity. Unfortunately, the closest hospital may not be the most appropriate hospital to treat them.

The legislation passed by the Senate on Thursday would ensure patients experiencing the most severe cases of stroke are triaged by ambulance crews and transported to hospitals capable of performing procedures to remove the blood clot causing the stroke, restore blood supply to the brain, and save threatened tissue.

These facilities, known as Level 1 Stroke Centers, are staffed with highly trained neuro-interventional care teams.

The state House of Representatives now has until July 31, the end of Massachusetts’s legislative session, to vote on the bill and send it to the governor’s desk for his signature.

“If you’re having a stroke, it’s critical that you get proper medical attention right away,” said Allyson Perron Drag, government relations director for the American Heart Association in Massachusetts. “Getting the right treatment immediately may minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. This bill will save lives and prevent disability.”

Sen. Mark C. Montigny

State Sen. Mark C. Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat and sponsor of the bill, called stroke a “chronic, deadly, and destructive disease that demands action from policymakers” in a statement released after Thursday’s vote.

“What is particularly troubling is that in many cases the death and disability is largely preventable,” said Montigny. “We must act now to implement necessary reforms so that our loved ones can receive the very best care and treatment. The things we can do now through this bill are pretty simple and reflect what many medical professionals agree are necessary to modernize our system of care. Lives are simply more important than the bottom line of any business or desire to maintain the status quo.”

Someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds on average. In 2017, stroke accounted for about 1 of every 19 deaths nationally. In Massachusetts, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death, claiming 2,370 lives per year, according to the most recent data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

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