Hospital Forced To Close Its Doors To New Stroke Victims

Health cutbacks have forced the country’s only rehabilitation hospital to close its doors to new patients who have suffered a stroke, brain and spinal injuries, it was confirmed last night.

The National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire is now prevented from discharging or admitting any patients because of the spending cuts and recruitment freeze.

Dr Nicola Ryall, consultant in rehabilitation medicine at the hospital, said 22 patients whose rehabilitation has ended cannot be discharged due to a freeze in funding for care assistants, nursing home places and other home supports they will need. “Even if a bed becomes free we still cannot admit any new patients because the hospital has to stay within budget,” said Dr Ryall.

The crisis means a number of brain injured patients who have already spent up to 18 months on waiting lists will have to remain in acute hospitals where they are in danger of developing secondary complications and enduring even more psychological distress.

Patients with spinal injuries, who faced waiting delays of of several months, have also been told their admission is cancelled. Dr Ryall said she feared the admission freeze may have to continue until the end of the year.

The hospital has been under strain for some time as it struggled to cope with demand as more patients survive accidents due to advanced resuscitation techniques and surgery. It currently has a waiting list of around 130.

“The sooner rehabilitation begins after a patient is stable the better. It is a very labour intensive process and one man earlier this year had eight physiotherapists working with him — but he is now able to walk. We have made a case to the Health Service Executive because we are the only hospital providing the service and are waiting for their answer,” she added.

The decision to leave these patients in acute hospital also mean beds are unnecessarily blocked. News of the latest crisis emerged yesterday as the challenge by health unions to the recruitment freeze was referred to the Labour Court. It followed the failure of unions and managers to reach any agreement at the emergency Labour Relations Commission hearing yesterday morning.

The unions said the HSE recruitment freeze is in breach of Towards 2016 but managers were confident that the Labour Court would rule in its favour.

It was also learned yesterday that the recruitment of a surgeon to carry out living donor kidney transplants in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has had to be stopped. Mark Murphy of the Irish Kidney Association said the promise to carry out 15 of these operations, where a living match donates a kidney, will not be met by the end of the year and only three have taken place so far.

Junior hospital doctors are also warning of possible industrial action cost cutting moves to reduce their overtime payments for emergency cover are pushed through. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said any cuts in this area would put patients at risk.

Meanwhile, private providers of home care packages, which involve carers and other staff helping the older person remain in their own homes, reported the commissioning of new services has dried up in recent weeks.

The HSE funds the packages to allow older people discharged from care to live in their own homes with support. Ed Murphy President of the Irish Private Home Care Association (IPHCA) said yesterday up to the start of the recruitment freeze and other cutbacks, the HSE was funding a couple of hundred new packages a week.

“That has now dried up,” he said. “Older people are being denied Home Care Packages as a result of the current HSE recruitment embargo.”