Is funding cut a false saving?
A home device that increases arterial blood flow to the leg can help save patients’ limbs – and taxpayers’ money – so why is it no longer paid for by some HSEs, asks MICHELLE MCDONAGH
EIGHTY SEVEN-year-old Bridget O’Malley has managed to stay in her own home and avoid having a second leg amputated through the use of a cost-effective, non-invasive home device which increases arterial blood flow to the leg. However, she is the only patient in Mayo still receiving HSE funding for the ArtAssist device and one of very few in the country due to funding cuts.
Mrs O’Malley is fortunate enough to have been started on the pneumatic compression device before funding for it was cut by the HSE in Mayo in 2008. However, her surgeon has told her that if the pump had been available to her earlier, she would not have lost her other leg to amputation.
A sufferer of severe Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) for many years, Mrs O’Malley had her leg amputated nine years ago after bypass surgery failed to improve the circulation to her legs. It was a very traumatic experience for her and it has left her in a wheelchair.
When she started getting gangrene of her remaining leg and lost the top of her toe eight years ago, her surgeon, Mr Sharif Sultan, introduced her to the ArtAssist device which had just become available in Ireland.
“I don’t think my mother would be alive today without the pump,” says her daughter, Ena Scahill. “Without it, I could see her going downhill very quickly, losing her second leg and ending up in a nursing home for the rest of her life because we would not be able to care for her at home – which would cost the Government a lot more money. She can do everything for herself, except take a shower.”
Distributed in Ireland by Galway-based company, Deprimo, ArtAssist is the only external pneumatic compression device developed with vascular surgeons for the sole purpose of increasing arterial blood flow. Compression is applied to the foot, ankle and calf using cuffs to increase arterial blood flow, stimulating the beneficial effects of brisk walking.
It helps to heal wounds and, vitally, to prevent amputations and is recommended for patients with PAD, diabetic foot ulcers and rest pain.
Mr Sultan, a vascular surgeon at the Western Vascular Institute at University College Hospital Galway (who has no affiliation to ArtAssist or Deprimo) has been fighting for funding for patients in Ireland to access this limb-saving therapy for a number of years to no avail. Funding was cut in Mayo in 2008 and in Galway earlier this year. The HSE in Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Cavan/Monaghan is still funding patients.