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COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Care for Stroke in Australia: Emerging Evidence From the Australian Stroke Clinical Registry

, Joosup Kim, Emma K. Tod, Julie L. Morrison, Sibilah J. Breen, Katherine Jaques, Rohan Grimley, Brett Jones, Geoffrey C. Cloud, Timothy Kleinig,
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Published: 26 February 2021

Abstract: We present information on acute stroke care for the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia using data from the Australian Stroke Clinical Registry (AuSCR). The first case of COVID-19 in Australia was recorded in late January 2020 and national restrictions to control the virus commenced in March. To account for seasonal effects of stroke admissions, patient-level data from the registry from January to June 2020 were compared to the same period in 2019 (historical-control) from 61 public hospitals. We compared periods using descriptive statistics and performed interrupted time series analyses. Perceptions of stroke clinicians were obtained from 53/72 (74%) hospitals participating in the AuSCR (80% nurses) via a voluntary, electronic feedback survey. Survey data were summarized to provide contextual information for the registry-based analysis. Data from the registry covered locations that had 91% of Australian COVID-19 cases to the end of June 2020. For the historical-control period, 9,308 episodes of care were compared with the pandemic period (8,992 episodes). Patient characteristics were similar for each cohort (median age: 75 years; 56% male; ischemic stroke 69%). Treatment in stroke units decreased progressively during the pandemic period (control: 76% pandemic: 70%, p < 0.001). Clinical staff reported fewer resources available for stroke including 10% reporting reduced stroke unit beds. Several time-based metrics were unchanged whereas door-to-needle times were longer during the peak pandemic period (March-April, 2020; 82 min, control: 74 min, p = 0.012). Our data emphasize the need to maintain appropriate acute stroke care during times of national emergency such as pandemic management.
Keywords: Stroke / COVID-19 / Healthcare quality / Survey / clinical registry

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