Thousands of people with severe brain injuries face dangerously long delays to access “overstretched” services that fall “far below what would be expected in a developed country”.
The claim was made by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland during a specially arranged Oireachtas health committee meeting last night.
Speaking to the cross- party body, Magdalen Rogers, the group’s development manager, said vital neurological services across the country are failing to meet basic standards of care.
Ms Rogers said that, despite a 2011 Government review, Ireland has just one neuro-rehabilitation team, in the Mid-West; next to no multi-disciplinary support; and a dwindling community care service that is forcing patients onto lengthy hospital waiting lists or to seek expensive help privately.
She said the problems mean one in four patients cannot access physiotherapy services. Pointing the finger of blame at falling budget and staff levels, she warned lives are at risk.
The claims were supported by Beaumont consultant neurologist Orla Hardiman, who said that attempts to increase staff levels have only “uncovered a huge un-met need” for services.
During the meeting, patient advocate Jim Lawless, whose wife died from a neurological condition in 2005, made a number of allegations about how public services are “not safe” due to staff and funding gaps.
Chief among Mr Lawless’s concerns was a claim that a facility will not release details of whether 100 “emergency” brain haemorrhage patients it turned away in 2012 survived.
While health committee chair and Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer urged caution as the HSE was not at the meeting to give its side of events, he said the group would examine the claims further.
Meanwhile, the health committee has agreed to contact Cork University Hospital immediately to find out why a life-saving €500,000 epilepsy monitoring unit is still not operational after over a year, despite the money and staff being in place.
It is understood that the new deadline CUH has given for the unit opening is March 31.
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