Neurological care in crisis
Sir, – I am a 36-year-old engineer. As a result of corrective surgery on an aneurysm in 2015, I had a stroke. This meant that the left side of my body was affected and I could no longer walk, use my left arm or dress myself. I wasn’t able to drive or go to work.
I struggled to get access to the appropriate services I needed.
In Cork University Hospital, where I had surgery, I had access to physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. The facilities there are very limited as it is an acute hospital.
In February 2016, I got a bed in the National Rehabilitation Hospital and completed 12 weeks of therapy. While the individual therapists did their very best, my experience was one of deep frustration as there are huge limitations on the amount of hours available for therapy. In addition, there was no access to the facilities after hours or on the weekend.
I kept my timetables from that time and I had on average three hours of physiotherapy over five days and just one hour of hydrotherapy. There are not enough therapists there to provide what I would consider a comprehensive service in what is the national specialist neuro-rehabilitation hospital.
However limited it was as an in-patient in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, when I returned home there was nothing. I now pay privately for physiotherapy and friends and family have fundraised to help me pay for these services.
It is well-established that early intervention is crucial to make an optimal recovery and if I had access to the rehabilitation services I needed in a timely way, I would most likely be back at work, paying my taxes. The lack of services is a false economy.
I am determined despite the system to get back on my feet. Without my family and friends, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
The Irish healthcare system has failed me. I am one of many people in Ireland with a brain injury who cannot get access to the services needed to maximise our recovery.
Without some political will to invest resources in neuro-rehabilitation, we will continue to live on the margins. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Recent media coverage of neurosurgery cancellations and unacceptable two-year waiting times for rehabilitation for acquired brain injury reveals the historic underinvestment in neurological care that continues to blight the lives of the over 800,000 Irish people who live with neurological conditions such as stroke, dementia, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis, etc.
Ireland presents a stark contrast to the rest of the developed world in terms of neurological care, lagging far behind our partners in the EU.
Waiting times of up to two years for a first appointment to see a neurologist, nonexistent or limited rehabilitation support and lack of access to new medications are symptoms of an extremely ailing neurological care sector in Ireland which is unable to cope.
The World Health Organisation in 2001 recognised neurological conditions as the “greatest challenge facing public health systems in developed countries worldwide”.
As usual, we failed to act and now Irish patients are paying the price. – Yours, etc,