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Therapy car to help patients on road to recovery

New car aids Concord Hospital's rehabilitation patients to get back on the road.

Small car parked on the road
SydneyConnect Image: New therapy car for Concord Hospital

A new therapy car is set to help rehabilitation patients at Concord Hospital master a key challenge before going home - safely getting in and out of a vehicle.

Rehabilitation patients may have suffered from a stroke, a serious injury or a brain tumour.

Specialists decide what types of therapy each patient needs to regain strength, restore mobility and increase independence as much as possible before they leave hospital and return home.

And now, under the guidance of occupational therapists and physiotherapists, patients at Concord will be able to use a new therapy car - a two-door smart fortwo hatchback - to learn and practise essential car safety techniques.

"Different patients have different goals and for some it may be independent use or for some it may be one of assistance," Michael Berbari, Sydney Local Health District's Director of Occupational Therapy, said.

"Patients will be able to practise and improve their ability to get in and get out of the driver and passenger sides of a car safely. The therapy car will assist them in planning for day leave or discharge," Mr Berbari said.

The therapy car will be located in an outdoor Rehabilitation Terrace on the lower ground level of a Rehabilitation and Aged Care Centre in the new Clinical Services Building which is being constructed during Stage One of the Concord Hospital redevelopment.

Rehabilitation specialists first suggested purchasing a therapy car during the design phase of the redevelopment, having learned about a similar vehicle in use at Balmain Hospital.

At Balmain, therapists use a specifically designed car - that only has a passenger side - during the patient rehabilitation process.

"There was a company in the US that supplies half cars but it was incredibly costly," Mr Berbari said.

The smart fortwo car met the therapists and patients' needs and also complied with work, health and safety requirements. The car's battery will be removed.

The therapy car will also help patients re-connect with their families sooner - because eventually they'll be able to practise in their own vehicle.

"We'll start with the therapy car… and if the patient has a bigger car, like an SUV, then we'll problem-solve with the family and the patient can practise with their own car at the hospital.

"Some patients are in hospital for a little longer so it's important to provide opportunities to practise - for example for them to drive, or be driven home, to collect new clothes," he said.

The Rehabilitation and Aged Care centre will also include ambulatory clinics, assessment and therapy areas, rehab gyms and psychogeriatric medicine and is expected to open when Stage One of the hospital redevelopment is completed at the end of 2021.