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Hope for change as families meet Health Minister on support for people with brain injury

Four families attended the meeting yesterday.

THE FAMILIES OF men and women with acquired brain injury (ABI) have met with the Health Minister as they campaign for treatment for people with the condition.

Reinhard Schaler, father of Pádraig, a young man who was left with brain injury after a bike accident in Cape Cod while on his J1, was among those at the meeting with Simon Harris.

Members of four families attended the meeting. They were Joe Grogan, father of Shane; Catherine Cahill, mother of David; Reinhard Schaler; and former Renua TD Terence Flanagan, whose sister Siobhan has a severe brain injury.

Speaking after the meeting, Reinhard Schaler told TheJournal.ie that it went “really well”.

“It went as well as it could have gone,” he said. “[Minister Harris is] really supportive, he really cares about it, so does Finian McGrath.”

He said that he has been put in contact with a representative of the HSE, who he hopes to meet next week.

The Schaler family and supporters have set setting up a registered NGO called An Saol, which they plan would provide services such as physiotherapy. They are currently fundraising for An Saol.

They decided to set up a centre themselves because of the issues they encountered in getting the appropriate treatment – and enough of it – for Pádraig under the existing system.

Earlier this year, Reinhard Schaler explained to TheJournal.ie:

If you want appropriate therapy, you would have to do it yourself.

The family were given the details of a neuro physiotherapist for Pádraig, but the charge is €110 an hour. Pádraig was initially brought to Germany for treatment following his accident, as his family felt he would not get the appropriate treatment here.

An Saol’s main aim is to provide long-term and ongoing neurological rehabilitation (medical and social) for survivors of a severe Acquired Brain Injury (sABI).

Schaler spoke to the ministers yesterday about the aims for the programme.

“I think their main concerns are operational, that is how I would interpret it,” he said.

He said that the ministers agreed “there is a large gap in service provision for people with severe ABI” in Ireland.

We agreed that the HSE has plans in place and that what we propose to do has to fit in with that. But what I said was really given the size of the HSE that if they are going to do anything it is going to take a long time whereas what we are proposing can be put into place within a few months. That is really the unique selling point for me and really for them too.

Harris told the parents he supported the An Saol proposal and that he cares deeply about the issue, said Schaler.

“We all agreed basically what we are talking about is not more money but is just to spend the money more wisely,” said Schaler. “We all agreed on the need for it and that the current situation is not really one that anybody could be happy with.”

The process of working on the HSE service plan for next year began recently.

This is the first time that Reinhard Schaler has had personal contact with a senior person in the HSE who is prepared to meet him, so it is a big moment for the family and An Saol.

It is anticipated that the HSE representative will report back to Minister Harris on his meeting with Schaler.

“As far as I could tell, they are happy with the proposal; they all believe something needs to be done and the proposal is a good proposal, and the question now is how that can be made operational,” said Schaler.

“What it really means we will see over the next few weeks, but I think they were prepared to listen and they agree with our analysis of the situation.”

Schaler is due to meet with Deputy Billy Kelleher, health spokesperson for Fianna Fáil, Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Féin and Roisín Shortall of the Social Democrats on the issue shortly.

The hope is to get all of these politicians on board with the plans for An Saol. Reinhard Schaler blogs about his son’s progress at Hospi-Tales.com.

Read: “People said Pádraig was as good as dead – he is proving everybody wrong”>

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