Rehabilitation centre accused of running ‘cosy little cartel’

TD claims hospital denying treatment to those who do get prosthetics elsewhere

Prosthetic legs in the prosthetic centre at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Prosthetic legs in the prosthetic centre at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The National Rehabilitation Hospital has been accused of operating a “cosy little cartel” by refusing to treat patients using prosthetic limbs if they are not supplied through the hospital.

Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny made the allegation as he highlighted the case of a constituent who “got a prosthetic limb from a company in Co Galway but when that person needed rehabilitation services they were refused that service in the National Rehabilitation Hospital”.

He said “there’s a nod and a wink going on here” and the cost of limbs in the Dún Laoghaire hospital was up to 25 per cent more than elsewhere.

The Sligo-Leitrim TD said it was a “totally outrageous situation because Government funding [is being used] where there is a cosy little arrangement”.

“We have the State funding the prosthetic limb; the State funding the hospital that’s meant to provide the services for that person to get rehabilitation; and yet if they don’t do it through the National Rehabilitation Hospital they are denied service.”

He said the hospital was “denying services to citizens of this State and providing professional services only to people with whom they have a contract”.

‘Very inadequate’

Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne acknowledged his concerns and said she would pursue the issue with the Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath and with the hospital.

Ms Byrne apologised for the reply she was given to read out in the Dáil and described it as “very inadequate”.

In the reply, the hospital said it was “reluctant to provide a response on this matter without the input of the consultant in charge of prosthesis at the hospital”.

The consultant was unavailable on Thursday but was expected to provide a response on Friday.

But Mr Kenny said the issue was not about the consultant. “It’s a management issue.”

“There’s no problem with what the consultants do or the clinical service they provide,” he insisted.

He said that “a number of companies provide prosthetic services across the country, but if their patient needs rehabilitation there’s every excuse found why they [the hospital] can’t take them”.

He said patients go through the agony of losing a limb and the mental torture of trying to deal with that. And when they get a limb they have to teach the body to cope with it.

Ms Byrne said she agreed “entirely that it shouldn’t be up to a consultant to answer a question on such a sensitive issues that has affected an awful lot of people”.

Ms Byrne said her own mother-in-law spent 30 years as an amputee and that it was very difficult for anybody who loses a limb to cope without proper rehabilitation.

She said it “defies logic why people, because they don’t have specific limbs from a specific company, can’t go to a national rehabilitation service and get looked after”.

She told Mr Kenny: “I guarantee you that you will have a reply tomorrow.”