"What is missing is exactly - and as the recommendation to the Government that was approved in the Assembly of the Republic said more than a year ago - to define and implement a strategy for access to rehabilitation for all" those who have suffered a stroke, said the president of the association created in 2016.

António Conceição said that this will be one of the topics being debated in parliament, in a session regarding the National Day of the Stroke Patient, which is marked on March 31, and which aims to contribute to greater political and media visibility on the main cause of death and disability in Portugal.

In November 2021, parliament unanimously approved a resolution recommending the Government to develop, within three months, a strategy for access to rehabilitation care “effective, multidisciplinary and nationwide for survivors” of stroke.

The resolution also asked the executive to reinforce the rehabilitation teams in all hospital and extra-hospital centres, by hiring rehabilitation professionals, for the complete constitution of multidisciplinary teams.

“Glaring disparities”

About 15 months after its publication in Diário da República, “this is a question we are going to ask. What has been done and is being done to define this strategy for rehabilitation?”, said António Conceição, for whom the “current state of things is the same or worse than it was at the time”.

According to the president of Portugal AVC - União de Sobreviventes, Familias e Amigos, the country presents a “dramatic panorama” in terms of rehabilitation care for those who survive a stroke, with “glaring disparities”.

“It is dramatic because there is a lack of responses from the National Health Service, but not only that. First of all, this rehabilitation has to be seen as multidisciplinary and timely. Each stroke has very different consequences from person to person”, said António Conceição.

According to the president of the association, rehabilitation care therefore has to cover areas such as physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy, nursing, psychology and nutrition, among others.

In most cases, rehabilitation is the responsibility of private and social entities, “where the quality offered – and which in general is just physiotherapy – leaves much to be desired”, warned the head of AVC Portugal, noting that “there is no control over the quality” of this care.

In addition to reinforcing the number of health professionals for the various areas, greater control of the quality of rehabilitation available in Portugal is necessary, to minimise the “huge inequalities that are practiced” depending on the hospital unit in which the patient is treated , geographic location, economic capacity, among other factors

António Conceição also added that the latest figures provided by the Directorate-General for Health, referring to 2016, pointed to around 25,000 cases per year in Portugal and that, according to INE data for 2020, strokes remained the main cause of death, even ahead of Covid-19.