Mercy Hospital Fort Smith Re-Certified as Stroke Center

February 7, 2017

When you see signs of stroke, how fast you act can determine how well you recover. That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms and get help at a hospital that provides excellent stroke care.

The Joint Commission has announced that Mercy Hospital Fort Smith earned re-certification as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center after achieving its initial certification in 2014. The certification means Mercy Hospital Fort Smith can display The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval, a symbol of quality that reflects Mercy’s commitment to providing safe and effective patient care. 

Mercy Hospital undertook a rigorous on-site review in October. Joint Commission experts evaluated compliance with national disease-specific care standards as well as with stroke-specific requirements. The experts also assessed the hospital’s clinical practice guidelines and performance measures.

Established in 2002 and awarded for a two-year period, The Joint Commission’s Disease-Specific Care Certification evaluates clinical programs across the continuum of care and addresses three core areas:

·         Compliance with consensus-based national standards

·         Effective use of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines to manage and optimize care

·         An organized approach to performance measurement and improvement.

 Arkansas continues to be among the top states nationally in stroke mortality. Mercy is dedicated to being part of improving survival and treatment for stroke patients, said Dr. Steve-Felix Belinga, stroke program director for Mercy Hospital.

“The Joint Commission certification is an intensive undertaking for Mercy co-workers and I’m proud of their commitment to the process of improving our response to stroke,” Dr. Belinga said. “The certification also demonstrates Mercy’s overall commitment to addressing one of this community’s greatest health risks.”

Community education is an important element of The Joint Commission certification because it’s estimated that 80 percent of strokes could be prevented, said Nicole Harp, stroke program coordinator for Mercy Hospital. 

Stroke educators recommend remembering the acronym FAST in addressing a possible stroke:

·         FACE: Ask for a smile. Does the person’s face droop?

·         ARMS: Ask them to raise both arms. Does one drift downward?

·         SPEECH: Is it slurred or strange?

·         TIME: If any signs are observed, call 9-1-1 immediately.

“It’s important that members of the community understand the signs of stroke and also that we are a place where they can get advanced treatment,” Harp said.

In addition, nurses, physicians and support staff receive ongoing education about early warning signs of stroke and national standards regarding stroke treatment.

The Joint Commission certification promotes a whole system of care, from prevention and management of risk factors, to treatment, to preventing hospital re-admission after stroke treatment, Harp said.

For more information about Advanced Primary Stroke Center certification, click here

Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at


Dr. Steve-Felix Belinga, stroke program director for Mercy Hospital Fort Smith

Dr. Steve-Felix Belinga, stroke program director for Mercy Hospital Fort Smith

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