Freeman News

Freeman Earns Highest Stroke Designation in the Area

June 10, 2015

Designated a Level II Stroke Center by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Freeman is the first and only hospital in the area to earn this distinction.

Joplin, Mo. – Freeman Health System has taken a major stride forward in improving the quality of healthcare in the four-state area. Designated a Level II Stroke Center by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Freeman is the first and only hospital in the area to earn this distinction.

With 795,000 cases occurring in the U.S. each year, stroke is the nation’s number-five killer and the leading cause of long-term disability. It can take away a patient’s mobility, motor skills, speech, dignity and pride and devastate families. When treating a person with stroke symptoms, quick response time and high-level care are paramount. Prompt treatment for acute ischemic stroke reduces disability and improves outcomes. Recently enacted state laws provide the Department of Health and Senior Services the authority to create designated stroke centers that meet standards to provide definitive and timely treatment for stroke patients (RSMo 190.241). The law also stipulates that “patients who suffer a stroke shall be transported to a stroke center.” The law goes on to state that a healthcare professional shall instruct ambulance personnel to transport a patient to the closest designated stroke center, even when the hospital is located outside of the ambulance service's primary service area. 

Level II Stroke Center designation means the state has verified that Freeman provides the highest level of expert care for patients with stroke/transient ischemic attack. Freeman is the only Level II stroke center within an 80-mile radius of the Joplin area. Freeman is the only state recognized certified stroke center in the Joplin area. Besides Freeman, the closest Level II Stroke Center is in Springfield, which means local emergency responders are required to bring stroke patients to Freeman unless the patient indicates a desire to be taken somewhere else.

To earn the Level II Stroke Center designation, Freeman completed an extensive and detailed certification process that included paramedics, nursing staff, radiology staff, physicians, neurologists, neurosurgeons, system quality analysts and administration. The hospital had to demonstrate not only that it has the providers and resources needed to treat stroke patients, but that its physicians and staff have met and will continue to meet strict standards of education and demonstrate proficiency in the latest proven stroke treatments. 

“This is one of the best things we’ve ever done for the community,” said Dr. Saba Habis, Freeman Vice President of Medical Affairs. “It is a testament to the level of commitment of Freeman’s staff. Everyone has a loved one or knows someone who has been touched by the tragedy of a stroke. At Freeman, we do everything we can to give stroke patients their lives back. We have our response down to a process, and we’ve seen what that process can do. To be able to give our patients a second chance is nothing short of miraculous. This is our commitment to the communities we serve.”

The Level II Stroke Center designation is part of the state’s Time Critical Diagnosis system (myocardial infarction, stroke, trauma), a new statewide emergency care model that aims to improve both the speed and quality of care to stroke patients. The system coordinates the 911 response system, ambulance services and hospitals in a comprehensive, integrated approach. Participation in the new system is voluntary for hospitals.

Stroke is a sudden brain dysfunction due to a disturbance in the brain’s blood circulation. The resulting impairments include but are not limited to paralysis, slurred speech, and vision loss. Ischemic strokes account for over 80-87 percent of all strokes and are typically caused by obstruction of cerebral blood vessels. Hemorrhagic strokes account for the remaining strokes and are typically caused by rupture of a cerebral artery.

When it comes to stroke, rehabilitation is an important component of the overall treatment strategy. Although individuals may survive the initial stroke, many are left with disabilities that might have been minimized had they received intensive physical rehabilitation that could improve function and reduce long-term disability. As many as 60 percent of stroke victims are left with diminished use of an arm or leg.

“As the area’s only Level II Stroke Center, Freeman Health System enables stroke patients to receive comprehensive care where they can recover, begin therapy, complete a rehabilitation program and utilize home care or outpatient services. Every aspect of a patient’s stroke care is available through Freeman. It is the full circle of recovery, all in one place,” said Linda Dean, Freeman Director of Accreditation and Clinical Support.

In addition to providing outstanding patient care, Level II Stroke Centers must also provide community education. Compliance with state standards requires a stroke center to place emphasis on educating healthcare workers and the public about recognition, prevention and treatment of stroke. Freeman healthcare professionals have presented programs on stroke in businesses throughout the area. Through programs like Freeman Screen Team, Freeman Advantage and support groups, Freeman continues to lead the way in empowering the public with life-saving information. With the Level II Stroke Center designation, Freeman is setting the standard for excellence in stroke care throughout the four-state area.

Freeman Health System – Celebrating 90 Years
Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2014, Freeman earned 90 individual awards for medical excellence and safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report ranked Freeman #1 Hospital in Southwest Missouri in 2014-15, and The Leapfrog Group gave Freeman the highest grade possible in the Fall 2014 Hospital Safety Score. With more than 300 physicians on staff representing more than 60 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit or or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at #FreemanTurns90