Ahead of World Hypertension Day, observed annually on 17 May, Karl Bremer Hospital in Cape Town was awarded gold status in the World Stroke Organisation (WSO) Angels Awards for 2023. Karl Bremer Hospital is the first in the province to be awarded gold status for its contribution to stroke care.

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is one of the leading causes of disease and death worldwide, and it can lead to stroke, heart disease and other complications.

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The Angels Initiative is a global network of stroke centres and stroke-ready hospitals dedicated to improving the quality of care for all stroke patients. The organisation recognises high-performing hospitals, such as Karl Bremer Hospital, for consistently recording and providing data that will aid research and help identify areas for improvement in stroke patient care.

The participation of Karl Bremer Hospital in the Angels Initiative complements efforts by the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness to improve patient care and health outcomes in the province.

The Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness expressed pride in Karl Bremer Hospital’s efforts to improve stroke care through collaboration with the internationally renowned Angels Initiative, saying that the entire stroke team should be commended for their ongoing efforts to provide the best possible care to residents.

Doctor De Vries Basson, Head of Internal Medicine at Karl Bremer Hospital, said that the hospital joined the Angels initiative to improve stroke care and empower staff. The hospital has now officially been recognised for its contributions.

Dr De Vries Basson, Head of Internal Medicine at Karl Bremer Hospital. Picture: Western Cape Government

‘I think that this is a very important initiative,’ said Dr Basson. ‘The Angels Initiative was launched to support hospitals, and its aim is to get more healthcare facilities stroke-ready. This means that we can provide improved stroke care to all who visit Karl Bremer Hospital.’

Renathe van der Merwe, the senior coordinator for Angels in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, congratulated the hospital on its contribution to improving stroke care.

‘On behalf of the Angels Initiative, I would like to send our sincere words of congratulations to the Karl Bremer Stroke Team on achieving a WSO Angels Gold Award for quarter one of 2023!’

She continued, ‘For Karl Bremer to be the first hospital in the Western Cape is excellent and a job very well done! Your contribution to the quality monitoring programme is highly appreciated, valued and considered a significant step for stroke care improvement in South Africa.’

Dr Basson hopes that other hospitals and healthcare facilities will participate in this initiative.

‘We need more and more hospitals in South Africa to not just join Angels but also record your stroke data. Recording your stroke care data helps you monitor the progress of your stroke unit or stroke team. It also helps you to compare your hospital’s stroke care and to learn from hospitals across the country and the world,’ he said.

He continued, ‘The Angels Initiative provides training to hospitals as well as emergency medical services, with the aim of improving stroke patients’ health outcomes.’

Dr Basson explained that the organisation has also assisted the hospital with workshops, roadshows, information packs and stroke-ready packs for our hospital, as well as assisting other hospitals with the establishment of a stroke unit or stroke team.

Dr Basson expressed gratitude to his stroke care team for their efforts. He said:

‘I am grateful for this award as I work with a great stroke team at Karl Bremer Hospital. Our team works extremely hard to make sure we get the best outcomes for all of our stroke patients. From our doctors and nurses to our rehabilitation staff and social workers, they really go the extra mile to provide the best post-acute care and rehab for our patients. It fills me with joy knowing that our stroke team’s efforts are making a difference. We know that prevention and stroke care awareness are important. We cannot sleep on this; we must act every day to ensure we provide the best treatment to our patients.’

Members of the Karl Bremer Hospital stroke team. Picture: Western Cape Government

Dr Basson is dedicated to raising awareness about stroke and encouraging people to learn more about hypertension (high blood pressure). Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in disability, a heart attack or a stroke.

‘Hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and renal complications, among other things. Hypertension is one of our “silent killers,” and most patients do not know what their daily blood pressure patterns are or that they actually have hypertension,’ said Dr Basson.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is when the pressure in your blood vessels is too high (140/90 mmHg or higher). It is common, but if not treated, it can be fatal. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years worldwide have hypertension, with approximately 46% of those affected unaware of their condition.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

Many people with hypertension do not have any symptoms.

According to the WHO, people with extremely high blood pressure may experience the following symptoms:

  • severe headaches
  • chest pain
  • dizziness
  • difficulty breathing
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • blurred vision or other vision changes
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • buzzing in the ears
  • nosebleeds
  • abnormal heart rhythm

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and have high blood pressure, seek care immediately.

How to recognise a stroke

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, hypertension is one of the most serious risk factors for death from heart disease and stroke, accounting for 13% of all deaths worldwide. More than one in every three adults in South Africa has high blood pressure, which is responsible for one in every two strokes and two in every five heart attacks. Knowing the symptoms of a stroke can help you save your life and improve your health.

The acronym to remember is FAST.

F is for face: Are they experiencing weakness involving half of the face?

A is for arm: Is there any drift in the arms when asked to raise their arm?

S is for speech: Does the person’s speech sound slurred or unclear?

T is to take note of the time: Take the person to a hospital immediately or call an ambulance and say that your loved one is having a stroke. It’s important to think and act fast. The sooner you get to the emergency room, the better the outcome will be.

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Picture: Western Cape Government

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