THE state is spending an average of about €120 a year per stroke survivor on rehabilitation services, a heart health and stroke charity has claimed.
Urging Health Minister Dr James Reilly to improve services for stroke survivors, the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) said strokes cost the economy €1 billion, but less than €7m was being spent on rehabilitation
The charity believes there could be as many as 59,000 stroke survivors in Ireland, which would mean that an average of just €120 is spent over a year on rehabilitation for them in the community.
“This would barely pay for two physiotherapy sessions in a year, which is unacceptable when you consider the often highly complex physical, speech and psychological supports that people need when they rebuild their lives after a stroke,” said Dr Frances Hogan, chairperson of the IHF’s council on stroke.
“The worst aspect of this deficit is that, in addition to massive reduction in death and disability, better rehabilitation services might actually save the taxpayer as well by reducing the need for nursing home places and the numbers returning to hospital due to the medical effects of their stroke,” she said.
Dr Hogan was speaking at the foundation’s annual stroke conference in Dublin yesterday, attended by over 180 stroke physicians and allied health care professionals
Dr Reilly, who opened the conference, said his family had been touched by stroke. “I am acutely aware of the damage that stroke does to people, not just as a doctor but also in a personal way,” he said.
His father, having just retired at the age of 66 had a stroke. “It was just as he was talking about golfing his way all around Ireland. He ended up with cortical blindness and spent the last 14 years of his life blind.”
He agreed that more rehabilitation units were needed to deal with stroke survivors in the community so that expertise was available in a nursing home setting.
“I have already asked for people in my department to price this in terms of getting 20, 30 or 40 beds in different nursing homes in the greater urban areas where the problem is most acute,” Dr Reilly pointed out.
He envisaged nursing homes with facilities for dealing with stroke survivors tendering with the Department of Health for service contracts. With people going home after treatment the numbers involved would not be great.
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