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Patients with life threatening conditions on cardiac rehab waiting list for six months

A new survey finds more than 1,800 patients are on the cardiac rehabilitation waiting list for up to six months.

Cardiac rehab
Cardiac rehab

MORE THAN 1,800 patients, some with life-threatening conditions, are on waiting lists for cardiac rehabilitation for up to six months.

A new survey carried out by the Irish Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation (IACR) and the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF), showed that staffing cuts meant that none of the 36 surveyed hospitals providing cardiac rehab had all the expertise required to provide the life-saving services.

Staffing

The research showed that more than half of the services were missing at least four of the ten team members needed to deliver propercardiac rehab services. A full team includes a medical director, rehab coordinator, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, nursing, social worker, psychologist, pharmacist, dietitian plus administrative support.

In addition, 27 cardiac rehab units have no access to psychology and 29 have no medical social worker. Occupational therapists are not available in 26 locations.

And in almost a quarter of services, nurses have been transferred for periods from cardiac rehab to other duties.

Cutbacks

IACR President, Dr Charles McCreery said the survey exposes the impact of sustained cutbacks in cardiac rehabilitation and how these now threaten its long-term viability. He said cardiac rehab is vital to thousands of patients coping with the physical and psychological impacts of heart attacks and heart surgery, but said it is being treated almost like an optional service and that needs to change.

Dr McCreery said the reductions in staffing arising from maternity and sick leave were not covered and non-replacement of staff added further deficit when members of the cardiac rehab team were transferred to other hospital services.

He said nurses in almost a quarter of all rehab teams were transferred for periods to other duties in the hospital, including to general wards and accident and emergency.

“Resulting reductions in staff numbers mean cardiac rehab teams are finding it increasingly difficult to follow-up with patients after they complete the hospital-based rehab programme,” he added.

Despite the significant pressure being placed on cardiac rehab, rehab services saw 500 more patients in 2012, compared to 2010. 4,500 patients engaged in a hospital-based cardiac rehab programme in 2012, up from 4,000 in 2010.

Irish Heart Foundation Medical Director, Dr Angie Brown said that “cutbacks are threatening the future of many cardiac rehabilitation services”. She added:

Reductions in cardiac rehabilitation programmes, or in the ability of services to provide the full range of care, will impact on patients who have already been through very serious medical procedures.

Our health service should be providing the resources to ensure that these patients can return to their own lives with confidence, rather than continuing to rely on hospital services.

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