Six Parkinson’s nurses to cover whole country has Ireland in ‘worst-case scenario’

A man living with Parkinson’s has said he and others can’t continue relying on just six specialist nurses.

Gary Boyle has had Parkinson’s for the past 13 years.

He has voiced serious concerns over the lack of dedicated specialist nurses in Ireland.

He told Lunchtime Live the number of specialists – based on our population and the recommended European average – should actually be 31.

“We have a situation where we have in total about six Parkinson’s specialist nurses to cover the entire country – the Republic of Ireland.

“We’re looking at that number and realizing that in the North of Ireland, there are about 10 or 12 nurses.

“Still a very low number, buy you can see what we’re living with in Ireland is really the worst-case scenario across the EU.”

Gary explained that other shortages mean people living with Parkinson’s are only likely to get an annual review with their consultant or registrar.

“Then they don’t see that person for at least another year, maybe a year and a half.

“So where we have specialist nurses, they can step in and assist with queries that a person living with Parkinson’s is having – or difficulties that a person living with Parkinson’s is having.”

He said they can “advise on diet, sleep, exercise, speech and language therapy – that kind of thing – and really provide an invaluable service”.

‘Trusting and relying on Minister Donnelly’

He said he has been given assurances for Budget 2023.

“We’ve been pointing this out for a significant period of time, that we can’t continue this way.

“But I was fortunate to meet the Minister [Stephen] Donnelly in July outside the Dáil.

“The meeting we had was very brief, but he gave me a commitment that he would include six Parkinson’s nurses – along with a number of other specialist neurological nurses – in the budget this month.

“Commitments are made, and I’m really trusting and relying on Minister Donnelly to deliver on his word.”

But he said there are people living without any support at all.

“The reality is there are people who are not seeing nurses at all, they’re not getting any help.

“So they’re living with this incurable, degenerative condition [with] very little support other than what they get from their families and from anybody they may know who has Parkinson’s as well.

“But really we can’t rely on six people who are trying to cover the whole country”.

Gary added: “It’s not [as if] we’re looking for a billion euros or anything like that – we just want people to understand what we’re going through.

“Understand that it’s not easy, some days are better than others, but definitely what makes it easier is knowing what you can do yourself, knowing if you had support – specialist nurses, for example – that you can touch base with when you need to .

“That would take so much stress out of the situation; and stress is the number one enemy of people living with Parkinson’s,” he said.

Main image: Gary Boyle. Picture: Supplied

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