Speeches

Address by Mr. Brian Lenihan TD., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children at the formal opening of the Ulysses Multidisciplinary Pain Management Rehabilitation Programme at the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, incorporating the National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght

Ladies and Gentleman,

May I first of all say that I am delighted to be here today in the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, incorporating the National Children´s Hospital, Tallaght, to officially open the Ulysses Multidiscplinary Pain Management Programme. I was particularly pleased to receive the invitation to do so and I want to thank Dr Power and all of those associated with the Programme for extending it to me.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that overwhelms all other symptoms and may become the problem. It may affect people so much that often they cannot work, they may lose their appetites, and physical activity of any kind is exhausting and aggravates the pain.

In terms of development in pain medicine, Ireland has followed a similar pattern to other European countries and North America. Traditionally within Ireland and the UK it has evolved from within hospital divisions of anaesthesia and is a consultant led service.

I have been made aware of some revealing statistics with regard to pain. International studies suggest that one in seven adults will be partially or permanently disabled due to pain. Back pain accounts for a substantial portion of this figure. In the USA, it has been estimated that billions of dollars are lost in terms of wages and medical expenses incurred each year due to persons suffering from chronic pain. Ten percent of the Irish population suffer from chronic pain. It has been estimated that healthcare expenditure on back pain alone costs the Exchequer £25 million per annum. It is evident, therefore, that the condition constitutes a significant medical and socio-economic problem.

Recent research has shown that the “Quality of Life Index” in people suffering from chronic pain is lower than that of people suffering from a terminal illness. This research highlights the need to develop treatment programmes for chronic pain.

The “Ulysses” Programme is one such programme. It aims to help people suffering from chronic pain through education, exercise, and by increasing their psychological well being. The end result is to increase the patients quality of life. It is for this reason that I am delighted to have been invited here today to officially open the Programme.

The name of the Project “Ulysses” is a very apt name as Ulysses was the hero of the Odyssey who suffered from chronic scar pain. This however, did not prevent him from leading a very full life (including fighting a ten year battle in Troy before meeting Cyclopses and having many other adventures!). The objective of the Ulysses programme is to enable patients also suffering from chronic pain to lead full and active lives – maybe not quite as active as Ulysses but to lead normal active lives!

I was also delighted to discover that the Ulysses Pain Management Programme is run by a Multidisciplinary team which includes a pain physician, physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a senior clinical psychologist with input from the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Anaesthesia. This Multidisciplinary team has been extremely successful in combining their knowledge, skills and expertise to develop the optimal treatment and the best recovery programme for their patients.

The Programme is not only multidisciplinary in its make up but it also works in partnership with government agencies, which retrain individuals with chronic incapacity for returning to work. One of the most distressing elements for the sufferer of chronic pain is that it is a very isolating experience. Helping patients return to work also helps their recovery by making them feel part of the community again.

The group sessions, which are part of everyday rehabilitation in the Programme, are also beneficial for this reason, as they give patients a chance to meet other people suffering from chronic pain and to realise that they are not alone.

The Programme is an example to us all of how co-operation, dedication and commitment can help facilitate progress.

Apart from the quality of life improvement that such a programme can give, it can also help reduce costs for the state. Figures for 2002 showed that spinal pain (90% of all chronic pain) costs our economy in excess of €1m per week in Disability and Occupational Injury Benefit Payments alone. This figure does not take into account the economic pressure that chronic pain puts on the health service, the cost to the economy in terms of direct medical costs or the cost of losing workers in our labour market. Therefore we can say that the benefits of this Pain Management Programme are two fold, benefiting both the patient and the economy.

I am aware that the development of this Programme is a joint venture between the Hospital, the Irish Pain Society, and the Section of Anaesthesia of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland.

The Irish Pain Society have, of course, come a long way from their humble beginnings in the early 80´s and I would like to commend them for their pioneering work and immense contribution towards progressing the issues relating to pathophysiology and management of pain.

In conclusion may I again thank Dr Power for the opportunity to be here today to see the facilities and officially launch the Programme. I wish all the members of the programme every success in the future.

Thank You