Blarney man’s bid to help patients with Parkinson’s

March 9th, 2023 7:30 PM

By Southern Star Team

Ivan O’Regan, who lives with Parkinson’s disease, with his partner Eleanor O’Sullivan and their children Effy and Ellis.

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A BLARNEY man living with Parkinson’s disease is part of a just-launched campaign to improve supports for those with the condition in Cork. 

The Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI), which launched the campaign, said neurological patients in Cork are being failed by the current shortfall in community neurorehabilitation teams.

It is seeking commitments from elected representatives and the HSE to tackle the absence of a community neurorehabilitation team in CHO Area 4, which includes West Cork.

CHO Area 4 is the catchment area for Cork University Hospital which is both a national neuroscience centre and a designated major trauma centre. Despite this, the dedicated neurorehabilitation team promised in 2019 has yet to be delivered.

There are only two community neurorehabilitation teams in Ireland, despite nine teams being required, which is outlined in the Implementation Framework (2019-2021) for the National Neurorehabilitation Strategy. This means that only 15% of neurological patients in Ireland have access to teams that provide vital care to support their recovery.

Magdalen Rogers, NAI executive director, said that once a person receives a diagnosis of a neurological condition, they need to be supported in their recovery and the management of their condition. 

‘That’s what a community neurorehabilitation team does. It brings together healthcare professionals from a range of disciplines such as an occupational therapist, a speech and language therapist, a physiotherapist and a clinical psychologist to enable a person living with a neurological condition to live well,’ she said. 

As well as outlining the positive impact a community neurorehabilitation team can have on a patient’s recovery, the NAI presented a clear economic rationale for urgently establishing the teams in the seven CHOs that do not have a team in place.

Ms Rogers continued: ‘For every €1 spent on a community neurorehabilitation team, the health service saves €11. Having these teams in place is vital in reducing the length of stay and delayed discharges and therefore freeing up beds in acute hospitals. The support of neurorehabilitation teams is also proven to prevent unnecessary admissions to hospitals and improves the overall well-being and quality of life of patients with a range of neurological conditions. We have estimated that having these vital teams in place could save up to 42,000 bed days annually.

‘We are calling on elected representatives in Cork and the HSE to commit to delivering these services for the people of Cork. There is still no funding in place for a team in the CHO 4 region. Having a team in place here would have a significantly positive impact on the lives of those living with neurological conditions in Kerry, North Cork, North Lee Cork, South Lee Cork and West Cork.’

Ivan O’Regan, from Blarney, who is living with Parkinson’s disease, described his experience. ‘Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease was a massive shock, and I had no idea where to turn for help,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, there is no local support available, and early intervention is crucial in managing the disease. With a team in place within the community, people with Parkinson’s can take ownership of their care and receive timely access to rehabilitation services. 

‘We shouldn’t have to fight for these services. We need our elected representatives and the HSE to take action now.’ Prof Aisling Ryan, consultant neurologist at Cork University Hospital and Dr John MacFarlane, consultant in rehabilitation medicine at Mercy University Hospital, also spoke at the online launch event.

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