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New Wheelchair Resource Centre Opens to Boost Service User Experience


A new Wheelchair Resource Centre is set to boost patient / service user experience for wheelchair users and their families. The Wheelchair Resource Centre, based in Ward 5 at Waterside Hospital, was officially opened today by the Chair of the Western Trust, Dr Tom Frawley CBE, Trust Chief Executive, Mr Neil Guckian OBE and service users, Clodagh Gardiner and Ciara McChrystal.

The Occupational Therapy Wheelchair Resource Team provide assessment, ordering, demonstration and handover of manual and powered wheelchairs and buggies. They also provide service user training in powered mobility, both indoor and outdoor. The new Resource Centre is purpose-built with ample space for active skills and power wheelchair training and testing. There is new tracking and hoist facilities in both the clinic space and accessible bathroom. The Technical Instructor Workshop is now on-site, complete with a decontamination room. There is also designated car-parking for wheelchair accessible clinic users.

Speaking at the event Mr Guckian, Western Trust Chief Executive, OBE said:

“This is a wonderful new facility. I wish to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of Occupational Therapy staff, Estates Department staff, Business Support and Senior Management and how they have worked tirelessly over the past number of years to bring this important service to fruition. I also want to pay tribute particularly to our service users Sharon (mum of Aliya), Ciara, Clodagh and her mum Shauna, whose input has been invaluable in ensuring that this dedicated wheelchair service is accessible to wheelchair users nearer to where they live now and in the future.”

Helena Doherty, Occupational Therapy Manager at the Western Trust explained:

“Our dedicated Occupational Therapy Services Team are responsible for provision of wheelchair services within the Trust. The wheelchair is one of the most commonly used assistive devices to promote mobility and enhance quality of life for children and adults of all ages. We have nearly 5,000 wheelchair users in Western Trust area and will spend approximately £1.5 million on wheelchairs and accessories in this current financial year.”

Helena added:

“A wheelchair is not just to help you get around; it opens up opportunities for wheelchair users to study, play, work, engage in social, functional and self-care activities, communicate and access services. In addition to supporting mobility, an appropriate wheelchair benefits the physical health and quality of life of our users by helping in reducing common problems such as pressure ulcers, pain, prevention of deformity and improve respiration and digestion. Wheelchair users need a wheelchair which fits them correctly and meets their specific needs and this is what is provided in our new dedicated Wheelchair Resource Centre.”

Sharon Karatas, mummy to Aliya said:

“I am parent / carer to my fully dependent 18 year old daughter, who has used this service all her life. We used to have huge anxieties coming to our appointments previously due to challenges with the older facilities. This new Centre is ‘life-changing’. It will make coming to appointments so much easier. The bonus for me is the new accessible changing area, this will encourage a more relaxed experience and will protect the dignity for everyone using it.”

Ciara McChrystal who has used a wheelchair since her early twenties spoke impassionedly about her journey, Ciara said:

“Whenever I was first given a wheelchair I was resistant. Whenever I got over the initial shock and stubbornness of having to be a wheelchair user, I came down to the wheelchair clinic and they taught me how to be independent again. They taught me how to get around, how to drive and how to manoeuvre outside. I had the choice of letting my wheelchair be a burden or letting it be my freedom – I chose freedom! The Wheelchair Resource Team has made sure I have a lifestyle and that I have independence.”

Ciara, who is also an active member of the Northern Ireland Ladies Wheelchair Basketball Team, added:

“This new facility is amazing it is designed and equipped to allow you to learn and practice active skills indoors and outdoors – it will give new users the confidence that they are in a safe environment.”