When you're having a stroke - time is of the essence.

And in Windsor-Essex, health officials are making progress in cutting wait times with a new protocol between the hospital, neurologists and EMS, calls “Code Stroke.”

Working together gets patients to care faster – which is important because if you’re having a stroke, you’re losing two million brain cells every minute.

As Denise St. Louis, th Manager at the District Stroke Centre at Windsor Regional Hospital says, “Time is brain.”

Staff members at the hospital have been working for two years to reduce the wait for stroke patients.

“It started at 95 minutes door to needle time, and we've gotten down to 49 minutes,” St. Louis says.

"Door-to-needle" is the amount of time it takes to get a patient from the emergency department to diagnostic imaging and hooked up for a CAT scan. That way, patients don't have to wait nearly as long for a neurologist.

Essex-Windsor EMS is also using a new protocol for stroke patients.

“They're actually going to call the neurologist, from the truck, from out in the field,” says Essex-Windsor EMS Captain Stacey Shepley, adding all the mobile phones in all ambulances now have a direct line to the neurologist on call.

“They're not always in the hospital at the Ouellette campus,” says Denise St. Louis. But if the neurologist agrees with the medic, a code stroke is called, triggering a notification of the emergency department, the departments in the hospital and the treating neurologists.

This way, when the ambulance arrives the ER is ready and the CAT scan team is standing by.

“This also plants a seed in the neurologists' mind, what they're going to do, so they can have that proactive thought process of what we're going to do with this patient,” says Shepley.

While happy with a reduction down to 49 minutes, the province wants hospitals to trim it down to 30 minutes.

“The faster we get that patient to the door, the faster they can get the needle, equals the faster they get the care they need and that means less deficits, the more chance of them being able to walk out of that hospital, being able to live the life they had before they entered,” says Shepley.

“That’s our goal.”