A new campaign is calling for urgent action to tackle the major shortage of rehabilitation services in Ireland for people with neurological conditions.
Some 25,000 people required neuro-rehabilitation services every year in this country, however due to a lack of investment in such services, many of these people end up being placed inappropriately in nursing homes.
"Rehabilitation services in Ireland are completely underdeveloped. Not everyone who needs to can access vital specialist rehabilitation in a hospital setting and when they are discharged, they often receive little or no additional supports in the community.
"For many, there is no other option than to be inappropriately placed in a nursing home with little chance of gaining any independence," explained Prof Mark Delargy, clinical director of the National Rehabilitation Hospital.
The campaign, ‘We Need Our Heads Examined', has been launched by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI), the national umbrella body which represents not for profit organisations working with people with neurological conditions.
It has teamed up with 15 of its member groups which deal with conditions such as acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.
The campaign is calling on the Government to take action in this area.
"Ten years of empty promises have seen no investment in services, despite the publication of a National Neuro-Rehabilitation Strategy in 2011. Since then nothing has been done and no progression made," the NAI said.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Reinhard Schaler, whose son Padraig suffered an acquired brain injury in a road traffic accident, insisted that ‘we are condemning people with these injuries to a future of neglect, disability and lost opportunity'.
His son was forced to travel to Germany for treatment.
"We cannot continue to deny access to vital services and we can no longer be expected to travel overseas to avail of them. The intervention period is crucial for a neurological condition, yet due to the lack of neuro-rehabilitation services in Ireland, this ‘intervention period' is a loss for many," Mr Schaler commented.
Also speaking at the launch, Alexis Donnelly, who has been living with multiple sclerosis for 25 years, said that 10 years of inaction by the Government ‘has brought extraordinary despair for many of us'.
"People with a neurological condition cannot be just left to deteriorate and told the health system won't provide for them. We need access to a range of quality services and supports to enhance our quality of life and wellbeing. This is not just bad healthcare, it is bad economics," he insisted.
The NAI is calling on the Government to publish an implementation plan for the National Neuro-Rehabilitation Strategy and to invest in the development of new services for people affected by neurological conditions.