News release: Virtual medicine saves lives in Manitoba

Telestroke system increases access to stroke care

(Manitoba) — When it comes to stroke, every minute counts – an estimated 1.9 million brain cells die every minute after onset of a stroke. For rural communities, the time factor is critical; access to a stroke neurologist is simply not available outside of our larger city centres. That’s one of the key reasons why the Manitoba Telestroke system was created in 2014.

Using video-conferencing and CT scan image-sharing technology, Telestroke enables stroke patients to be assessed by a stroke neurologist in Winnipeg or Brandon. After reviewing the CT scan the neurologist determines a treatment plan for the patient. This may include the delivery of a time-sensitive clot-busting medication called alteplase, delivered at the site by trained nurses and physicians, or transfer to Winnipeg for Endovascular Therapy (EVT). 

Ken and Evelyn Paton of Steinbach learned first-hand how valuable the Telestroke system is. On January 29, 2020, the couple were fast asleep when Ken appeared to have a bad dream. When Evelyn tried to wake him, Ken’s right side was too weak for him to get up, he wasn’t able to speak, and his eyes kept focusing to the left. Evelyn knew something was very wrong, so she called 9-1-1.

Thankfully, Bethesda Regional Health Centre joined the MB Telestroke Network in January 2019 – and that’s exactly where paramedics took Ken. He was assessed with a major stroke for which he received alteplase in Bethesda. He was then transferred by ambulance to Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, home of Manitoba’s comprehensive stroke centre, for EVT: doctors threaded a retrievable stent through blood vessels up to his brain, and the clot was captured and removed. The procedure restored crucial blood flow to Ken’s brain and prevented permanent damage, restoring his life!

“Calling 9-1-1 is the fastest way for stroke patients to receive emergency care when every second counts,” said Dr. Denis Fortier, VP – Medical Services at Southern Health-Santé Sud. “Telestroke virtually connects rural patients, local physicians and stroke specialists to prevent delays when someone is having a stroke. The Telestroke protocol allows the site to be ready before the patient arrives and is saving lives when patients in the region need immediate access to emergency stroke care.”

We live in a time when working virtually has become commonplace. Telestroke has provided virtual care since 2014, with life-saving results for many of the 763 Manitobans who have been assessed through the system since it was launched. Telestroke is now in place in all Manitoba health regions, with the exception of Interlake Eastern, where it is anticipated to be up and running soon. 

“The Telestroke system is delivering life-saving care to people across Manitoba who experience acute stroke,” says Christine Houde, Heart & Stroke Director, Government Relations & Health Promotion in Manitoba. “Everyone in our province can play a role in saving lives by learning the FAST signs of stroke, including the “T” for Time, to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Paramedics are trained to recognize the signs of stroke and will take the patient to the closest hospital that can deliver stroke treatment, including via the Telestroke technology.”

Learn more about the FAST signs of stroke at

For more information

Anita Pieterse
Communications Advisor, Western Canada
Heart & Stroke
403-351-7032 or 403-903-3144

Southern Health-Santé Sud
For more information or to request an interview, contact:
Southern Health-Santé Sud
Media Intake Line: 204-424-2329

About Heart & Stroke

Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why Heart & Stroke leads the fight against heart disease and stroke. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so people in Canada don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy.