10/03/2011 06:00 EDT | Updated 12/03/2011 05:12 EST

Care of Ontario stroke patients could use improvement: report

OTTAWA - Ontario's Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN) have been graded on their delivery of stroke care — and the report cards indicate that many could do a better job.

Half of the 14 LHINs have been told that improvements could be made in 13 out of 15 areas, with timely access to rehabilitation services for stroke patients the area most in need of attention.

Developed by the Ontario Stroke Network and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, the report cards evaluate stroke care based on standards set by the Canadian Stroke Network and Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

It's the first time they've been used in Canada, and they indicate the public is partly to blame for some of the poor marks.

Two-thirds of stroke patients fail to recognize the symptoms and don't get to hospital in time to receive the best possible treatment.

Those symptoms include sudden weakness, trouble speaking or confusion, vision problems, sudden headaches, and dizziness that causes a loss of balance.

The reports cards did give high marks to 11 LHINs for their performance in one to four areas. And they say improvements are being made in wait times for inpatient rehabilitation, access to brain scanning, use of clot-busting drugs and admission to stroke units.

Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Michael Hill says the report cards reinforce the importance of public awareness campaigns on recognizing and reacting to stroke warning signs.

The Canadian Stroke Network is a national research network headquartered at the University of Ottawa. It includes scientists, clinicians and health-policy experts committed to reducing the impact of stroke.