Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ireland criticised over poor facilities for MS sufferers

A shameful indictment
By Bernard Purcell
Wednesday May 30 2007

IRELAND has some of the most inadequate provision for care of people with Multiple Sclerosis in Europe, a conference heard yesterday.

MS is the most widespread neurological disease in the world today, with an estimated 2,500,000 people suffering damage to their central nervous systems.

Across Europe, 500,000 people have been diagnosed with MS. The causes are not yet known but the symptoms include blurred vision, weak limbs, spasms, tingling sensations, slowed speech and fatigue.

A major specialist conference in Brussels - the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform - sponsored by the European Parliament and German EU Presidency, yesterday cited Ireland as one of the most unequal countries for supporting people with the illness - alongside Poland where just 1pc of MS patients are treated with essential drugs.

Ireland has just 16 competent neurologists - and five neurological units and two rehab centres - to cater to 10,000 MS sufferers. Iceland has 18 neurologists for just 330 MS patients while Finland, on the other hand, has 40 units for 7,000 MS patients.

Even Romania, one of the poorest countries in the EU, has 72 units for 10,000 patients.

But experts fear Romania - along with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Latvia - may well be under-reporting or failing to diagnose the illness as incidences of it are very low for countries of their size.

Sweden has 14,000 MS sufferers and 400 neurologists, while the Czech Republic, with 13,000 sufferers, has 335 neurologists.

Several EU countries, but not Ireland or Britain, have a dedicated pension fund for MS sufferers.

- Bernard Purcell