Dr Áine Carroll, the newly appointed national clinical lead in rehabilitation medicine, said Ireland has less than a third of the recommended number.
“We have seven at present and one of those in Cork is on a temporary contract,” she said, adding that the recommended number was 26. We are truly the Cinderella speciality,” said Dr Carroll.
She was speaking after President Mary McAleese launched the National Rehabilitation Hospital’s (NRH) 50th anniversary celebration yesterday.
When it opened in 1961 the NRH in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin was and still is a self-contained rehabilitation unit and the only hospital of its kind in Ireland. At the time no hospital specialised in the treatment of patients with spinal cord injury.
There are 135 patients awaiting a bed in the hospital that has 109 beds open.
“Ireland should have a minimum of 372 in-patient rehabilitation beds,” said Dr Carroll.
The doctor stressed that rehabilitation following injury or disease was a basic human right. It was not a privilege and was supported by international legislation.
“It is time for change. It is time for a revolution in rehabilitation. It is time for investment in the present to secure a future for the patients were serve,” she said.
The chairman of the NRH’s board of management, Henry Murdoch, said a plan for a new hospital in the mid-1980s was hit by the recession.
He said another plan for a new hospital only reached tender stage in 2009. “We selected a tender and were hit by another recession but we are hopeful. We will not give up on getting the new hospital and we are determined that we will get it.”
The NRH has received planning permission for a hospital on the existing site and is awaiting approval from the Health Service Executive to give the construction project the go ahead.
President McAleese believed that the vision of a new NRH would be realised because of the “extraordinary fidelity” of its founders, the Sisters of Mercy, management and staff.
The hospital “accompanies patients and their families so closely through the most testing of emotional tempests as they adapt to what is for many of them a significant change in how they experience their lives,” she said.
* It is a public voluntary hospital funded by the HSE and Department of Health.
* The hospital is governed by a board of 15 members.
* It has 119 in-patient beds.
* There are between 130 and 150 adults and children waiting for a bed at any one time.
* About 800 in-patients and 3,500-5,000 out-patients are treated at the hospital every year.