Minister tries to block return of Samarès Ward

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THE Health Minister has made an eleventh-hour attempt to block plans to reinstate the former rehabilitation ward at Overdale ahead of a crucial States debate this week.

Deputy Richard Renouf denied that the move was driven by ‘panic’ and said that the debate should not be focused on the location of a service but the outcomes for patients.

Members are this week due to consider a proposition lodged by Senator Steve Pallett to reinstate the Island’s rehabilitation services at Overdale’s Samarès Ward immediately.

However, an amendment brought by Deputy Renouf would, if accepted, remove the requirement for the services to be reintroduced at the site and instead focus on continuing ‘to restore and improve the full suite of stroke and injury rehabilitation services facilities and beds at the earliest opportunity, with a full progress report delivered no later than 1 March 2022’.

Calls have been growing from service users and concerned Islanders to reinstate the 28-bed Samarès Ward, which was closed in 2020 and its facilities transferred to the Plémont Ward at the General Hospital, which has a 14-bed capacity. Several Islanders spoke out last week about the current conditions provided for patients and backed the reinstatement of the ward.

During a media briefing yesterday, the Island’s medical director, Dr Patrick Armstrong, said that there had been ‘issues and services have not been delivered to the standards to which we would aspire to’. He added that the Health Department was working to improve the current rehabilitation services on offer, including issues with Plémont Ward, which he said he believed could be ‘more conducive to recovery’.

The campaign group Friends of Our New Hospital labelled Deputy Renouf’s proposal a wrecking amendment and urged States Members to back Senator Pallett’s original proposition. Meanwhile, Dr Armstrong and chief nurse Rose Naylor have penned an open letter to politicians, urging them not to confine the service to a ‘stand-alone unit’.

Deputy Renouf said he believed that the service should be dictated by ‘clinical standards and patient outcomes’ and that a ‘stand-alone unit’, such as the one on Samarès Ward at Overdale, was unlikely to be effective in delivering those goals.

He said: ‘There is no panic [about the debate], but I have concern. It is a debate and there are 49 States Members who will express their views. We want to persuade them of the changes that have been made and the plans for the future. We want to focus the debate not on location or something delivered in the past, when we know healthcare changes rapidly, but on how we deliver rehabilitation in the future.

‘We need to be focused on outcomes for patients rather than primarily on the location of services.’

In a report submitted as part of Deputy Renouf’s amendment, the minister said: ‘Rehabilitation covers the whole of health services, including preventative services, and the service should be measured by clinical standards and patient outcomes rather than by the look and feel of a building or the number of beds within it.’

Dr Armstrong said that the current services could be ‘more conducive to recovery’ but that to ‘paint a picture that everything was perfect before is inaccurate’.

He added: ‘Our services need to be broad in their scope and application and therefore delivered in a wider range of locations and for a wider range of conditions. There seems to be a focus that we must go back to what we had before. Maybe we need to replicate something similar but we have not had the conversation as to what has been missing in the past and what modern rehabilitation services should look like.’

Aisling Adams, a general ward manager, said that an ‘improvement group’ was set up last month in order to review the current rehabilitation services on Plémont Ward. The review found that patients needed a quiet space to allow them to hold private conversations, as well as a dining room and breakout area. They also required improved access to personal-care facilities and more information on the discharge process, according to the group’s findings.

All of the improvements identified are to be ‘completed or considerably progressed’ by the end of February.

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