EMS Will Soon Use UNC Health Johnston As Primary Stroke Center

Change in protocols will mean quicker treatment of stroke symptoms

SMITHFIELD – Starting March 1, Johnston County Emergency Services–EMS Division will begin using UNC Health Johnston as a primary stroke center, giving patients experiencing stroke symptoms the option of being transported locally to receive care.

Josh Holloman

In changing its protocols, Josh Holloman, deputy director of Emergency Services, says his agency reviewed more than two years of stroke data from Johnston County.

“We are pleased with the results and the excellent care provided by the hospitals in Smithfield and Clayton,” he says. “Johnston has proven itself by being recognized as a primary stroke center as well as earning the American Heart Association’s GoldPlus award for stroke care.”

Carolyn Ellis, director of cardiac services at Johnston, says the hospitals are already treating stroke patients who arrive by personal vehicle as well as those who have stroke symptoms during their hospitalization.

Carolyn Ellis

“Instead of bypassing us for a tertiary-care hospital, EMS will now bring their patients here,” she adds. Ellis says patients will benefit by receiving care more quickly. “With stroke, time is brain,” she adds.

“From the start of symptoms, we have a four-and-a-half-hour window in which to administer a clot- dissolving medication to restore blood flow to brain regions.”

The medication can reduce the severity of stroke and reverse some side effects. “It can be the difference between life and death or a long-term injury,” Ellis says.

If patients need an advanced procedure, such as surgery for a brain blockage, the hospital can transport to UNC Health Rex, Ellis adds. “We work with Rex to do the more-comprehensive procedures we can’t do here.”

Johnston earned primary stroke certification in October 2021. Since then, the hospitals have worked diligently to shorten treatment times.

Holloman says his agency has been part of the hospital’s stroke committee for many years. “We’re pleased with the progress that’s been made,” he adds. “We commend the team that we’ve worked with so closely at Johnston. And we look forward to continuing to work together to improve outcomes for stroke patients.”


  1. Smithfield hospital is absolutely terrible. I feel for any stroke patients sent there, they’d be better off at home compared to that hospital

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