Post-stroke care worse for Aboriginal people, study shows

February 9, 2012
None of the Aboriginal patients in a study of post-stroke care were given vital clot-busting drugs.

A study of national hospital audit figures found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who suffer a stroke had threefold odds of dying or becoming dependent as a result of lower post-stroke care.

The study, conducted for the National Stroke Foundation, said: “Australian Indigenous patients with stroke received a reduced quality of care in hospitals and experienced worse outcomes than non-Indigenous patients.”

Aboriginal patients between 18 and 64 did not receive the same level of care as non-Indigenous patients. They were less likely to receive aspirin within 48 hours of stroke and less likely to be treated in a stroke unit, said to reduce death and disability by 22%.

None of the Aboriginal patients had received intravenous “clot-busting” drugs and had not received timely allied health assessments. Twenty-five percent of Aboriginal patients suffered intracerebral hemorrhages, compared with 16% of non-Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer higher rates of mortality and disability from stroke, which is Australia’s leading cause of death. But Florey Neuroscience Institute director Geoffrey Donnan told the February 9 Sydney Morning Herald Aboriginal results after stroke had been “neglected”.

The study said: “No national review of acute stroke care for Indigenous Australians is available.”

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association’s Ngiare Brown said systematic biases limited the care of Aboriginal people.

“Biases could be as simple as problematic doctor-patient communication through to inadequate social and cultural understanding and expectations Aborigines would accept or expect lower levels of care,” the SMH said.

Aboriginal people suffer lower life expectancy, higher rates of chronic illness and lower quality of life than non-Aboriginal people. The study said 97% of Aboriginal people are less than 64 years old.

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