One in one hundred people use wheelchairs

An interactive workshop for wheelchair users, which was held in Galway recently, will provide the HSE West with important feedback, according to the health authority.

The event, which was organised by the HSE Galway Community Occupational Therapy Department, was the first of its kind in the west.

The information gained will be used to inform the planning, design and delivery of the service which will lead to better outcomes for local wheelchair users in the future.

One per cent of the population or about 2,500 people in Galway use wheelchairs. This ranges from people using one to attend their local bingo session or hospital appointment to those who use it up to 12 hours per day. Wheelchairs are the most frequently prescribed assistive device. Using a wrongly prescribed one can affect people’s swallow, breathing, speech and can cause contractures, skin breakdown and pain.

The HSE’s wheelchair and seating service was established in Galway in 1999. It provides specialised wheelchairs and seating for people whose needs cannot be met using standard equipment.

More than 350 adults and children from Galway city and county use this service . People who are referred receive a seating and posture assessment and are prescribed a specialised wheelchair. The service also co-ordinates the ongoing maintenance and repair of these chairs. Prior to this being available in Galway, people had to travel to Dublin to access specialist services.

Alma Joyce, the occupational therapist manager with the HSE’s community services, says it is important for health services to get regular feedback from clients. “It is one of the HIQA standards that services are measured against.”

One participant described a wheelchair as a passport to life. Others talk about the difficulty they face when their wheelchair is broken. They are unable to go to work or mind their children and may have to stay in bed until it is fixed. This not only affects them but their entire family.

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