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Monday, 15th April 2024

'Appalling denial' of supports to Louth heart and stroke patients

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Chris Macey, the Irish Heart Foundation’s Director of Advocacy and Patient Support, says heart and stroke patients desperately need the unique pathway of support services provided by the charity. A new drive is underway encouraging people to lobby TDs and Senators in their area to sign a pledge ensuring State funding is allocated for the crucial supports on: 

A new drive is underway to bolster State funding for services which heart and stroke patients in County Louth describe as their “lifeline”. Locals are being urged to lobby their TDs and Senators to sign a pledge to support Irish Heart Foundation patient support services - with funding vital to their continued operation.

It is estimated that 16,000 people in Louth are living with cardiovascular disease. 

For many, supports provided by the charity are the only help they receive after a life-changing heart event, heart failure, stroke or other cardiac conditions. 

The practical, social and emotional support services begin when patients leave hospital and continue for as long as they are needed.  

Now local people are being encouraged to ask their local representatives to sign an online pledge on to ensure €1.2million in crucial annual funding is made available.

The Irish Heart Foundation currently receives just 8.6% of this to fund patient support services nationwide, which it says is inadequate to help the current volume of patients. 

The services reduce costs for the State every year by supporting patients to continue living in their homes rather than requiring nursing home care or being readmitted to hospital - but only a fraction of this work is State-funded, says the charity’s Director of Advocacy and Patient Support, Chris Macey.

“Nationally, 80,000 heart and stroke patients are discharged from hospital every year, or one every seven minutes, in many cases to a bleak and uncertain future,” he said.

“One in three of all stroke patients returning home are being referred in to our services, whilst we are also supporting thousands of heart patients.

“These people cannot simply return to the lives they led before and desperately need the unique pathway of support services that the Irish Heart Foundation provides.

“We are doing our utmost with our resources to ensure that people can make the most of life after a stroke or heart diagnosis, but we cannot guarantee continued delivery of these services.”

In 2017, 33-year-old Carmel Finnegan from Dundalk, returned home with her husband Mark from Dubai to give birth to her first child. After little Senan’s arrival, she was home three days when she began to feel unwell, had fatigue and checked her blood pressure, which was ‘through the roof’.

Carmel was struggling to breathe and her cough was worsening. She went to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, where her lungs were checked. She was given oxygen and later had blood transfusions. 

After further assessments, the primary school teacher was diagnosed with heart failure and spent the first few weeks of Senan’s life in hospital recovering.

Following the birth of her second child, Carmel began using the Irish Heart Foundation’s Nurse Support Line, the counselling service, the Facebook Group ‘Heart Support Network’, and she also joined the Patient Champions Programme. 

“I had no expectations of the services, but I felt it was better to hear from those with real-life experience who had been through something similar,” she said. 

“The services and groups I am involved in are so positive and no one is ever negative, despite their diagnosis. I would absolutely recommend these services to anyone going through similar to what I did.

“The services give me a support no one else can give me and give me a reassurance no one else can.”

Mr Macey says stroke patients leaving hospital often feel abandoned – and many heart failure patients end up in a revolving-door system where they need to be re-admitted.

“Our range of services, described by patients as a lifeline, reduce the need for admission to hospitals and nursing homes. A heart disease diagnosis or stroke often leads to post traumatic stress disorder. But the counselling we provide is the only psychological support available to many patients.

“People are denied basic services and it is appalling.”

In addition to counselling, the Irish Heart Foundation provides nurse-led needs assessments, weekly support calls, back-to-work programmes, fatigue management, peer-to-peer support services, social interaction and online exercise groups. Patients also have access to a Nurse Support Line to provide medical advice.

Once they sign the pledge, elected representatives’ names will appear on and they are also asked to share the pledge on their websites and social media.

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