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Island ‘behind’ on help for stroke patients

Mark Selley, of the Bermuda Stroke and Family Support Association, said rehabilitation after strokes was generally not covered by insurance

Bermuda’s treatment of stroke patients has improved but much more still needs to be done, according to Mark Selley of the Bermuda Stroke and Family Support Association.

Mr Selley said that while they had been fighting to improve insurance coverage and local treatment options, progress had been slow, leaving patients and their families dealing with a heavy burden.

“It was worse 20 years ago,” Mr Selley said. “It’s a little better now but we are still way behind where we should be. Much can be done.”

A major issue faced by those who have suffered strokes is the cost of rehabilitation, which Mr Selley said was generally not covered by insurance.

“The insurance situation around the world is under review right now by everybody,” he said. “I’m not sure what the answer is going to be, but people need to be assisted in every way possible.

“Chemotherapy to cancer is what rehabilitation is to stroke, but insurers don’t recognise the medical response. They think we’re going off to the spa for several months.

“I’ve spent my last 23 years since the stroke on the phone, lobbying, having meetings back and forwards and going to bat for people who cannot go to bat for themselves.

“Right now we are gunning for insurance parties and it’s no secret that it’s our intention to lobby Government to try and legislate an act which will allow foreign insurance companies located and doing business in Bermuda as an exempt company to compete with the local insurance companies.

“You would see the sharpening of the pencil like never before. Insurance prices would come right down, but the companies will come kicking and screaming.”

Mr Selley said that while King Edward VII Memorial Hospital had improved somewhat over the years, progress had been painfully slow with setback after setback.

“It’s like watching paint dry,” he said. “If you break your arm or break your back or anything, they can handle that, but neurological physiotherapy is a different thing.

“Sometimes a stroke patient has nothing broken and it’s just about trying to retrain the parts of the body that it used to once take for granted.

“The hospital just doesn’t have the facilities, it doesn’t have the staff.”

He said that for 20 years, he had tried to open a neurological rehabilitation unit within the hospital for those who had suffered a stroke or had other neurological issues.

“It would have had 26 beds and gone up in Perry Ward,” he said. “It was all geared to go twice, then I had to go and find people to run it. All of a sudden, out of nowhere they decided they needed a new wing and our requests got pushed further down the line.

“When that new building came up we had those two hurricanes and the extended care unit caved in, so they put those people into the general wards, including the one that was supposed to go to us.

“Now we’ve been fundraising for years. We have more than $500,000, which was supposed to help with physical construction requirements to put things in place, but none of that looks like it’s going to happen now.

“What we do have, which is more than we had before, is four rooms in the new Acute Care Wing and we have eight rooms which are assigned to stroke patients after the acute stage, but they are not getting the rehab that they need while they’re here.”