Manitoba Government Expands Telestroke Program to Provide Better Stroke Care in Northern Manitoba

February 5, 2015

Patients in Thompson now have access to a specialized program that provides emergency care for stroke patients in rural communities, Health Minister Sharon Blady announced today.

“The hours after a patient has had a stroke are critical,” said Minister Blady.  “This innovative service will help patients in the north receive the expert care they need as quickly as possible.”

The Telestroke program allows stroke neurologists and radiologists to consult with emergency physicians in rural hospitals through videoconferencing and shared CT images.  These specialists can determine if a stroke has occurred, the type of stroke and appropriate treatment options.

A stroke can be caused by a blood clot or a hemorrhage that cuts off blood flow to the brain.  When a blood clot is to blame, a patient treated with a clot-busting drug called TPA within four and a half hours of the start of symptoms may experience partial or complete recovery.  By providing Telestroke in Thompson, local patients will have access to specialized care during this critical period of time, Minister Blady said.

“Thompson can now provide patients with emergent stroke care by using technology to access specialists in other parts of the province,” said Helga Bryant, chief executive officer, Northern Regional Health Authority.  “Thompson is an important hub for northern Manitoba and being able to provide emergent stroke care will benefit Manitobans in our region.”

Thompson General Hospital is the fourth hospital in Manitoba able to provide emergent neurologist and radiologist stroke care, joining the Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg and the Brandon General Hospital.  As part of the province’s stroke strategy, Telestroke will be rolled out to general hospitals in each regional health authority of the province by 2016, the minister said.

The minister noted the Manitoba government will be making other health-care improvements in the community in the coming months including awarding a tender for a northern youth crisis centre later this year and moving forward on a proposal to expand chemotherapy services at Thompson General Hospital.

Stroke is the third-highest cause of death in Canada and one of the leading causes of disability.  In early December 2014, the Heart and Stroke Foundation launched an awareness campaign based on FAST, a tool that provides an easy way to remember the signs of a stroke and the importance of acting quickly.

FAST stands for:

  • Face:  Is it drooping?
  • Arms:  Can both be raised?
  • Speech:  Is it slurred or jumbled?
  • Time:  To call 911 right away.

“Recognizing the signs of stroke and acting quickly can mean the difference between life and death, or the difference between a full recovery and lasting disability,” says Debbie Brown, chief executive officer, Heart and Stroke Foundation in Manitoba.  “FAST is an easy and memorable way to remember the major signs of stroke.”

Manitobans who suspect they are having a stroke can call 911 to be assessed and transported to the appropriate hospital that provides stroke care services.

The minister noted the Telestroke program is a collaborative partnership between the Manitoba government, the regional health authorities, Diagnostic Services Manitoba and Manitoba eHealth to provide equitable access to specialized stroke care across the province.

For more information on Manitoba’s stroke strategy, visit  More information on the Heart and Stroke Foundation and FAST can be found at

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