Call for improved services for stroke victims
Improvements in the health service could save the lives of 750 stroke victims a year as well as taxpayers' money, it was claimed today.
A report compiled for the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) revealed the cost for care could be slashed by up to €13m a year if there was general access to stroke units and more availability of the clot-busting treatment thrombolysis.
The study - by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) - found the overall annual bill for stroke in Ireland exceeds €1bn, with 40pc going to nursing home costs.
Michael O'Shea, IHF chief executive, said the huge scale of avoidable death and institutionalisation is caused by the inadequacies in acute, rehabilitation and support services for patients.
"The reason these deficits still exist is due to uncertainty over the cost implications of delivering high-quality stroke services, particularly in the face of the current economic realities," he said.
"This report addresses that concern because even if you take the most pessimistic view of the data, we can still have world-class acute services saving hundreds of lives and saving millions of euros each year."
The report uncovered a pitiful absence of vital rehabilitation services desperately required by many of the country's 30,000 stroke survivors.
It claimed less than €7m a year is spent on community rehabilitation and complex therapy needs - an average of just over €200 per person.
The authors believed access to stroke unit care would result in up to 650 victims being saved each year from death or dependency, potentially saving €10m a year.
A further 100 lives and €3m would be saved if the availability of thrombolysis increased to 20pc.
The study found the price tag for the key interventions would be more than offset by savings from improved patient outcomes - particularly from reduced demand for nursing home care costs.
Elsewhere it maintained if decisive action is not taken there will be a 50pc increase in stroke incidence and a 50pc increase in the overall cost of the disease to the economy by 2021 because of the ageing population.
Mr O'Shea said improving stroke services to acceptable international standards will eliminate the catastrophic human cost of avoidable death and disability from stroke in Ireland.
"In cold economics, existing services are bad value for the taxpayer," he added.
"For thousands of people living with unnecessarily severe or prolonged disabilities from stroke and for tens of thousands of families who have lost a loved one to stroke, today's services are a major cause of avoidable tragedy."