Partners in Health: A vision in the making

Partners in HealthIn 1996, when Dr. Alistar Buchan said that Calgary would be "one of the best places in the world to be admitted acutely for stroke," he could only have imagined how true his words would be 15 years later.

Partners in Health, a $54 million dollar campaign, was designed to ensure Calgary was home to world-class centres of excellence in six key areas: stroke, heart health, trauma, women's health, joint and arthritis and cancer. The principle aligned perfectly with what visionary founder Mr. J.R. (Bud) McCaig, then Chair of Calgary Health Region, saw for Calgary Health Trust; "[Partners in Health] allows us to enhance the overall system, making ours unique and better," he said (Calgary Herald, March, 1996). "It allows us to enhance these already excellent programs and make them world-class."

Stroke health was a key component of the campaign, with a target of $14 million dollars - just over 25% of the total fundraising goal.  The money would be put towards a new stroke prevention clinic at the Foothills Medical Centre focused on promoting stroke education in the community and reducing the number of strokes per year.

Fifteen years later, the Foothills Medical Centre Stroke Prevention Program received the Stroke Services Distinction.  It is the first to receive a specific accreditation recognizing comprehensive service for people with stroke. From inpatient acute care to home rehabilitation, the program's distinction rating means it has met or exceeded the threshold criteria in all areas.

"When the Stroke Prevention Program was initially put in place, the average length of stay in the hospital decreased by two days," said Michael Suddes, Manager of the Calgary Stroke Program. "With the addition of our Early Support Discharge team, we are seeing an additional drop in the average length of stay by one to two days, while maintaining the quality of our stroke rehabilitation program. These rates are a significant indicator to the success of the program, and one we are extremely proud of."

But Suddes is quick to point out the importance research and academia has to the program. "The stroke program has been acknowledged for its range of services, but also for its innovation," he adds. Partnered with the University of Calgary (UofC) and Hotchkiss Centre for Brian Injury, the program has a very strong research agenda and has attracted many professionals from across the world through its international fellowship training for stroke neurology and national acute stroke case rounds via Telehealth.

Partners in Health provided the platform, which allowed Calgary to strive in many key areas of health care - but our mission is far from over. Along with the UofC, Calgary Health Region and Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Partner's in Health was the first significant challenge inspired by Mr. McCaig's passion for health care and determination for excellence. Today, Calgary Health Trust continues to work with the community, Alberta Health Services and the city's hospital and care centres to make our health care system unique and better.