Background: There is level I evidence that management of stroke patients in stroke units (SU) improves outcomes (death and institutionalization) by approximately 20%. In Australia, there is uncertainty as to the proportion of incident cases that have access to SU. Recent national and State-based policy initiatives to increase access to SU have been taken. However, objective evidence related to SU implementation progress is lacking. The aims of the study were (i) to determine the number of SU in Australian acute public hospitals in 2004, (ii) to describe hospitals according to national SU policy criteria and (iii) to compare results to the 1999 survey to track progress. Methods: The method used in the study was a cross-sectional, postal survey technique. The participants were clinical representatives considered appropriate to describe stroke care within survey hospitals. Results: The outcome of the study was presence of a SU according to an accepted definition. Response rate was 261/301 (87%). Sixty-one sites (23%) had either a SU and/or a dedicated stroke team. Fifty sites claimed to have a SU (19%). New South Wales with 23 had the most number of SU. Based on policy criteria, up to 64 sites could have a SU. In 1999, there were 35 public hospitals with a SU. Conclusion: Access to SU in Australian public hospitals remains low compared with other countries (Sweden, 70%). Implementation strategies supported by appropriate health policy to improve access are needed.
Internal Medicine Journal Vol. 36, Issue 11, p. 700-704