No follow-up services for stroke patients, say families and carers

Eamonn Wynne

Reporter:

Eamonn Wynne

The poor quality of services available to stroke patients in South Tipperary once they leave hospital has been highlighted at a meeting of the local Stroke Support Group.

The poor quality of services available to stroke patients in South Tipperary once they leave hospital has been highlighted at a meeting of the local Stroke Support Group.

Approximately 165 people suffered strokes in South Tipperary last year and according to Joe Connolly from Kilmanahan, Clonmel, that means that 165 families are affected once those patients are discharged and sent home.

“They are thrown into this thing and they know nothing about it”, he said.

“When patients go home it’s a nightmare”, Tina Peters stated. She told the meeting at St. Oliver’s community centre in Clonmel that her partner Fred Stacey was paralysed on one side and lost his voice when he suffered a stroke last year.

However he had no physiotherapy from when left hospital last August until the middle of February. She believed if he had physiotherapy shortly after he came home he might have been able to move his leg and hand.

Ms Peters, who lives between Mullinahone and Cloneen, avails of the Home Help service but said she would be lost only for her sister Helen. Her car wasn’t suitable for her partner and she spoke of her difficulty securing a loan for a better vehicle.

“Once patients leave the hospital there’s no follow-up”, she said.

Sandra Hickey, a nurse at South Tipperary General Hospital who is also a psychotherapist, said that in nine out of ten situations the carers are presenting for counselling because they’re not coping. “It’s heartbreaking in this day and age to find out what’s going in people’s homes”, she said.

The Stroke Support Group was founded four years ago. One of its founders, stroke specialist nurse Gemma McLaughlin said that the assessment unit at Cashel was brilliant but more was needed, including stroke-designated occupational therapists and social workers to support the transition from hospital back into the community, as well as psychology services.

She said that other areas of the country were better served in this regard and she asked why should South Tipperary suffer.

That theme was also touched upon by Celestine Morrison, originally from Clonmel and now living in Kinsale and whose father suffered a stroke last year. She said the model was already established in Cork where stroke patients were collected from their homes and services provided for them at a centre.

She said that hospital consultants were shouting louder in other areas of the country and these were the people who got the money for the services. She said nurses were overworked but she was critical of the health service, describing it as “a mess”.

Joe Connolly’s wife Anita was treated at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire after suffering a stroke. However she had to wait for three months to receive speech and language therapy after she came home and it was like starting all over again.

He said that a person who would liaise with the health services once a patient left hospital was needed.

“We would be lost only for the Stroke Support Group”, he added.

The meeting was attended by Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath, who said he would raise the concerns voiced with Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

South Tipperary has a high incidence of people suffering strokes but improved follow-up services were needed for those people. Many patients had a good chance of returning to a full, active life providing they got the support but it could be very traumatic if they didn’t get that support.

Deputy McGrath mentioned the “tragic” case of a woman in Tipperary town who had no comfort because she was waiting four months for a proper wheelchair. He said there was too much red tape in the health services.

In the past patients who were discharged from the assessment unit in Cashel would have the option of six weeks respite in a district hospital but that was no longer available, he added.