Up to 12 lives could be saved if unit put in place

A LETTERKENNY University Hospital consultant has issued an urgent appeal for support to fund the development of a new stroke unit.
Consultant geriatrician, Professor Ken Mulpeter, was speaking after it emerged that the lives of up to twelve people who die or are left severely disabled as a result of strokes in Donegal each year could be saved. Last year LUH had more than 170 stroke patients.
LUH currently is the only acute hospital in Ireland that doesn’t have an inpatient stroke unit. According to Professor Mulpeter plans for an eight-bed dedicated unit had been agreed prior to the hospital floods back in 2013.
“Any money invested in stroke care will only be repaid by improving people’s levels of function and independence. This means limiting their stay in hospital and reducing the level of care they will ultimately need when they leave hospital,” Professor Mulpeter said.
“Before the floods we had agreed to the siting of an acute stroke unit in Letterkenny but that was washed away, literally. There were further negotiations over the last year or two and an eight-bedded ward was supposed to open last August and then the agency job embargo kicked in.
“I’ve been pushing the issue at a national and local level but I’ve been getting nowhere and I’m peeved to put in mildly. If you haven’t got a stroke unit there’s a marked increase on mortality and morbidity.
“It’s an accepted standard of care for twenty years or more now. It’s nothing new. Of every 16 patients you see you can prevent one death or someone getting severely disabled. In our case that works out to be ten to twelve people a year,” he said.
Three nurses, a physiotherapist, OT and a Health Care assistant would be required to operate the unit which has been earmarked for an eight-bedded ward in Medical 2 or 3.
“I’m at a loss where it’s at at the moment. Professor Ronan Collins, head of stroke care in the country, is also writing letters on our behalf with no joy,” he said.
“Ethically I find it difficult that I’m not involved in the care of every stroke patient who presents at Letterkenny. They’re scattered all over the hospital. I’ve decided to go public on this because it’s going nowhere fast,” he added.
Professor Mulpeter has been working at LUH for the past 28 years and together with Dr Randall he runs the Rehabilitation Ward located within the St Conal’s campus.
“We had one consultant working with us who was interested in strokes but he left. We have advertised that post but we’ve been unsuccessful. With no acute stroke unit we won’t be successful in recruiting another. It’s a double whammy,” he sighed.
There is also a general lack of awareness of the symptoms and signs of stroke and that much can be done in the early phases through appropriate use of clot dissolving treatment and Acute Stroke Unit care.
“Unfortunately many people come to hospital too late to administer the drug. Public awareness is vital. The earlier patients are assessed and treated after onset of symptoms the better the potential outcome. Awareness of the common symptoms and signs of stroke such as those highlighted by F.A.S.T campaign is an important public health initiative,” he said.
“If we get them early enough we can give them a drug that will help dissolve the clot and then send them on to Beaumont in Dublin to get the clot removed. With a dedicated stroke unit in place we could literally get someone in off an ambulance, get them scanned and put back into the same ambulance and taken to Dublin to have the clot removed. Time is of the essence,” he said.
“People that aren’t suitable for Dublin or patients on their return from Beaumont could then be treated in the acute stroke unit but, as things stand, we’re behind the game in the country and that’s not good enough.
“I can’t think of anything else to do and it’s only fair to let people know what’s going on in case they think we’re not trying to do our best. We’re out of step with the rest of the country,” Professor Mulpeter said.

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