06 Oct 2022

Donegal patients with Spinal Cord Injury support all for medical cards to be provided on a permanent basis

Local politicians to hear first-hand stories of issues faced by families 

Donegal patients with Spinal Cord Injury support all for medical cards to be provided on a permanent basis

Spinal Injuries Ireland (SII) is hosting a meeting in Letterkenny next Tuesday

Spinal Injuries Ireland (SII) is hosting a meeting in Letterkenny next week to provide public representatives with a better understanding of the issues that local people living with a Spinal Cord Injury are facing on a daily basis.

The organisation has published a Pre-Budget Submission calling on the Government to designate Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) as a long-term and permanent condition and to extend eligibility for the medical card to anyone with an SCI on a permanent basis.

The meeting is set to take place at the Radisson Hotel from 6.30pm. on Tuesday next, September 27, is part of a national roadshow that has been organised by Spinal Injuries Ireland to generate wider support for its Pre-Budget proposal.

Donegal residents who are living with life altering spinal cord injuries will tell the meeting how the Government’s current approach to awarding medical cards is having a negative impact on their lives and why a change in policy is necessary.

They will highlight how anyone who sustains a Spinal Cord Injury and who is in need of a medical card is currently assessed on their means rather than their needs, as well as the fact that the maximum period for any medical card is just three years.

“This is an arbitrary and inhuman approach which is delaying or denying treatment and the supply of necessary equipment to many people living with a Spinal Cord Injury,” said Fiona Bolger, CEO of Spinal Injuries Ireland.

“It also contributes to significant stress, financial hardship, erosion of personal dignity and independence, and additional physical and mental challenges. It is inhuman and it must change,” she added.

Spinal Injuries Ireland estimates that three people sustain a devastating Spinal Cord Injury every week in Ireland. Some lose the ability to walk and depending on the level of injury can also lose arm and hand function. An SCI can also result in serious secondary health issues including chronic pain, loss of body function, severe psychological distress, and financial issues.

The experience is life-changing for individuals and their families who are suddenly faced with the cost of medical care, bowel and bladder care, and pressure relieving equipment along with special requirements such as a motorised chair, a bed hoist, and adaptions to their car and home.

Spinal Injuries Ireland is the only organisation dedicated to providing support services to over 2,200 people in Ireland living with a Spinal Cord Injury. Its call for a change in Government policy follows extensive consultation with service users, their families, health care professionals, and with its own board and medical advisors.

“Our number one priority is the permanent provision of medical cards based on an assessment of need. Our shared belief is that a Spinal Cord Injury should be classified as a life-long condition, similar to diabetes or epilepsy. It is critical to recognise that anyone living with such a life-long condition is also at risk of developing secondary conditions that can be debilitating and even life-threatening,” said Ms Bolger.

“In many cases, people with an SCI are unable to return to their former employment. Spouses, family members, or partners commonly give up their employment to provide them with home care. There is a huge loss of family income and it is estimated that 25% of those with an SCI live below the poverty line,” she added.

Spinal Injuries Ireland’s Pre-Budget Submission also calls for the implementation of the National Strategy for Neuro-rehabilitative services, including a National Trauma System for Ireland. The automatic approval of funding for home care packages for patients with the most complex needs is also proposed.

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