Stroke survivors urge States to reopen ward

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SEVERAL stroke survivors have called for the ‘world-class’ rehabilitation centre at Overdale to be reopened immediately ahead of a States debate next week.

Islanders with experience of the services at Samarès Ward have urged Members to back Senator Steve Pallett’s proposition to reinstate the facility. Senator Pallett has also requested that a ‘purpose-built rehabilitation unit’ is delivered as part of the development of a new hospital.

The proposition comes after the Health Department closed the 28-bed Samarès Ward at Overdale in 2020 and transferred the service to Plémont Ward at the General Hospital.

Diane Saralis, whose husband, Mark, suffered a stroke in August 2019, described the environment at Plémont Ward as ‘noisy’ and having ‘a lack of privacy and not conducive to recovery’.

Mr Saralis had two stays there before being transferred to Samarès Ward, where he was an inpatient for seven months.

Mrs Saralis said: ‘I cannot describe to you the importance of the care Mark received at Samarès Ward. I honestly do not know the position we would be in without it.

‘By the time Mark was eventually discharged back home, he was able to use his balance more effectively, he was able to eat independently, he had gained skills to communicate despite not having any effective speech. He had gained confidence to be in the company of other people and he managed to avoid depression.

‘All these positive changes were attributed to the skills, expertise, guidance, support and continuity of care from the Samarès rehabilitation team.’

She said that Mr Saralis continued to show signs of improvement on a regular basis, which would not have been possible without the ‘incredible specialised help and support’ at Samarès Ward.

‘I am astonished and saddened to discover the community stroke team no longer exists. The loss of this service is devastating.

‘From experience, I do not believe the current fragmented service offers a person the best chance they require to optimise their best outcome and quality of life,’ she said.

‘I would urge States Members to seriously consider reinstating the Samarès rehabilitation team and the services at Overdale as a matter of urgency,’ she added.

Pam Evans, who suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2004 and spent three months on Samarès Ward, said: ‘The current lack of care available to those who need to go through the rehabilitation process is shocking and I am so frightened of having another haemorrhage because of the lack of care I will receive.

‘It horrifies me that Samarès Ward has been standing empty for months and is not used for its purpose. Current stroke survivors are not being given the opportunity to make the best of their recovery and this will cause a lot to suffer with long-term conditions.’

She added: ‘How can anybody learn to walk, share meal times, have a rest and be treated by the full disciplinary team on a hospital ward? Some patients have been sent to care homes with no neurologically trained staff, or their own homes, to be cared for by relatives already struggling with the shock of becoming a carer. Had I been sent to any of these, I would have lost the will to live.

‘States Members must agree to reinstate the facilities at Overdale immediately.’

Graham Bisson, whose wife suffered a stroke in 2020 and spent 13 weeks on Plémont Ward, described Samarès Ward as a ‘world-class head injury and stroke rehabilitation centre’. He added that the equipment and service currently provided on Plémont Ward were a ‘shadow of its former self’.

‘My wife is now at home and our greatest difficulty was finding carers. We eventually found an agency who could provide two carers but I’m still the principal carer for 22 hours a day, which is a huge commitment,’ he said.

‘My wife originally received no physiotherapy when she was home and felt like she had been completely neglected. Without considerable physiotherapy and occupational therapy, progress is not possible.

‘After four weeks I contacted the Hospital and they offered my wife one hour per week of physiotherapy up at Overdale. They cancelled the following three appointments and advised we found our own private physiotherapist. The cost of that and other private arrangements means our “home made” care package is costing us £70,000 per year,’ he added.

Former JEP assistant editor Anthony Lewis suffered a stroke in November 2007 and spent six months on Samarès Ward. He praised the ‘excellent care’ during his time at Overdale.

‘Every day the therapists made me work in the gym. It was painful and tiring but bit by bit, I took my first baby steps. By the time I left Samarès Ward, I was beginning to walk but my speech had not returned. In 2010 I had completed the Jersey Marathon and in 2012 I cycled with lots of friends from the Stroke Association from London to Paris,’ he said.

‘None of this would have been possible without the rehabilitation I received on Samarès Ward.’

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