Belfast Telegraph

Injuries to brain to be treated at new centre

By Nigel Gould

A new, cutting-edge, brain injury unit - the most progressive of its kind in Europe - will open in Northern Ireland next week.

A new, cutting-edge, brain injury unit - the most progressive of its kind in Europe - will open in Northern Ireland next week.

The massive state-of-the-art centre, based at the Musgrave Park Hospital complex in Belfast, will house a whole range of vital multi-disciplinary services under one roof.

Inpatients will be cared for in an ultra-modern, 25-bed, ground floor with a fully-equipped outpatient centre. Other facilities include: a large exercise room; speech and occupational therapy facilities; a gym and purpose-built sensory gardens.

Spacious bedrooms include unique railway-line patient hoists.

One patient, Clare Soutar from Whiteabbey, is currently receiving vital rehabilitation in the outpatients unit.

At 15 years of age, Clare suffered a brain injury after being hit by a car, and spent months in a coma.

Her mother, Sue, said the new centre would be of great benefit for her daughter.

"Everything is available here under the one roof," she said. "It is spacious and quiet which is really important.

"When you come out of a coma the world is a crazy place but this centre will help her a lot."

The unit, first approved by the Assembly in 2002, offers a wide programme of rehabilitation and treatment for brain injury victims with varying degrees of disability, physical, cognitive, and behavioural problems.

Dr John McCann, lead clinician and consultant in rehabilitation medicine, Green Park Healthcare Trust, said the unit is a big step forward in treating patients following brain injury.

"Every individual's needs are tailor-made to suit them."

Project overseer Brian Sore said they travelled around Europe looking at other brain injury units to get a clear picture of what was required for Northern Ireland.

"Basically, we took the best bits," he said. "There were impressive centres in Oxford and Rotterdam - but the one we have is something else.

"This now means we don't have to send our patients and families across the water to such centres. This could cost up to £60,000."

Up to 40 people a day could be treated inside the new unit. The service aims to give patients as much independence as possible after an injury and reintegrate them into the community.

The brain injury unit has a unique curved design, cutting out long corridors and anonymous spaces which are difficult for patients who have cognitive or memory problems.

The majority of brain injury patients are male, and the highest number of injuries for both males and females occur between the ages of 16 and 30.

Around 80 people per year will need inpatient rehabilitation for the effects of brain injury.

Belfast Telegraph

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