Stroke care for patients is 'in crisis'
The outcomes for stroke patients are in decline, reversing the major improvements which were made in their care in recent years, a leading specialist warned yesterday.
Prof Joe Harbison, the head of the HSE's National Stroke Programme said: "We are heading for a crisis. Our stroke services cannot even deal with the numbers we have now. We are not staying ahead of the avalanche."
He was speaking at the launch of Irish Heart's new "stroke manifesto," a blueprint setting out how preventable death and disability from the condition could be achieved.
Prof Harbison said stroke units are not able to cope with the numbers of patients who need to be admitted to them and there will be surge in cases as the population ages.
"We don't need extra money to fix things - we just need to invest in treatment so we don't have to send so many patients unnecessarily to expensive nursing home care," he added.
Stroke units are twice as effective as coronary care units in reducing death and severe disability.
But no hospital in the country has a unit that is resourced to minimum international standards.
The downturn comes after significant headway was made after 2009 in improving the care of stroke patients, saving more than 200 lives a year.
However, he said there are more staff now employed in a coffee shop in St James's Hospital than there are in the stroke unit.
Patients with stroke are having to be admitted to beds which should be allocated to others .
Their average length of stay is also increasing and more are being discharged to nursing homes.