Hospital bed shortage impacts on families of brain trauma victims

By Mary Dennehy

A TALLAGHT family has bravely spoken out about the lack of rehabilitation beds for people who have experienced a brain trauma, with lengthy waiting lists impacting on recovery and the mental wellbeing of families.

Last August, Frank Kearns (41) experienced a partial lack of oxygen to the brain after suffering from a heart attack.

Caroline and Frank Kearns 1 

This type of a brain injury is called hypoxic and has resulted in Frank having cognitive disabilities, which has seen the father-of-seven lose his ability to talk while experiencing problems with his long and short-term memory and behavioural issues.

His wife Caroline told The Echo: “The last eight months have just been dreadful, our lives have been turned upside down and we felt like we were left in limbo when it came to Frank’s care.

“Frank is still in Tallaght Hospital, which has been amazing to my family and so supportive – we have actually made lifelong family friends with some of the staff.

“However, Tallaght Hospital has done all it can for Frank, he needs to be in a rehabilitation hospital – but there are simply no beds.”

This week Caroline was contacted by the National Rehabilitation Hospital [NRH] which said it is aiming to take Frank in this August.

“I am very grateful that I have gotten some movement on Frank’s treatment, I know that the NRH is extremely stretched and under resourced.

“However, when Frank is eventually admitted he will have been left waiting a year for rehabilitation and, because Tallaght Hospital has done all it can, I have to put Frank in a secure psychiatric unit until a rehab bed becomes available.

“He does not have a degenerative mental illness, Frank has experienced a brain injury and is making new brain connections every day and I’m really upset that because there is not enough rehab beds in the system that he is being placed somewhere unsuitable – somewhere he will regress.”

She added: “The past eight months have been dreadful for the family, everywhere we turned we were met with delays and waiting lists.

“We need our home in Fortunestown specially adapted for Frank and there were delays in getting confirmation off South Dublin County Council too, but they have this month scheduled a date for work.

“Frank knows he knows us and he knows he loves us but he doesn’t know why.

“The families of people with acquired brain injury are dealing with realities like these every day and there needs to be more support – money needs to be invested into rehabilitation services and supports.

“The quicker somebody can begin rehabilitation the better their recovery and the easier it is on the family.”

Based in Dun Laoghaire, the National Rehabilitation Hospital, which is the only hospital of its type in the country, has 110 in-patient beds across four programmes, spinal injuries, prosthetics, brain injury and paediatrics – with 56 of these beds allocated to brain injury patients.

There are currently 269 people on the hospital’s waiting list, 155 of whom have suffered a brain injury. 
A spokeswoman for the hospital said: “We are continually reviewing our waiting lists and managing them on a weekly basis.

“The list is managed chronologically, but it is also dependant on an individual’s need, the rehabilitation required and the beds that become available.”

She added: “We are aware that 110 beds is way short for the population we have to serve.

“The hospital is always advocating for a greater number of beds . . . and these needs are based on best practice and international standards.

“Plans have been approved to replace the existing 110 beds and introduce an additional 10.

“However, we still know that we need more than 120 beds and hopefully this will just be Phase 1 of a plan to bring the number of beds up to around 230.”



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