Basel in the 1970s: while on the job, the young doctor Guido A. Zäch discovered just how little hope Switzerland offered residents who were living with spinal cord injuries: long hospital stays, poor medical care and no career perspectives.
Taking matters into his own hands, he decided to campaign for improvements in the treatment of paraplegics. He sought to make paraplegics equals, allowing them to enjoy an autonomous way of life instead of remaining marginalised members of society. His goal was to create a centre of expertise where all those affected by spinal cord injuries in Switzerland and surrounding countries could meet. The centre was to provide for the comprehensive rehabilitation and professional and social reintegration of people affected by spinal cord injuries. Little by little, Guido created an organisation with an extensive range of services.
1975: Founding of the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPF)
1978: Founding of the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation Benefactors' Association
1980: Founding of the Swiss Paraplegics Association (SPA)
1990: Opening of the Swiss Paraplegic Centre (SPC) in Nottwil
1994: Founding of Orthotec AG
2002: Founding of Swiss Paraplegic Research (SPR)
2003: Founding of the Swiss Institute of Emergency Medicine (Sirmed)
2005: Opening of the Guido A. Zäch Institute (GZI) in Nottwil
With the opening of the Guido A. Zäch Institute in Nottwil, a unique and integral network of services became available for people living with a back or spinal cord injury. The Swiss Paraplegic Group (SPG) is made up of the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPF) and the latter’s subsidiaries and partner organisations.
Video clip Swiss Paraplegic Group
A unique network of services
The Swiss Paraplegic Group places the patient front and centre, doing its utmost to achieve its overall goal of meeting the needs of people affected by spinal cord injuries. The SPG acts responsibly with regard to its sponsors, uses resources for their intended purpose and provides transparent information regarding its activities. Its daily work is governed by trust, esteem, teamwork, results and the maintenance of its pioneering role in the industry.
The Swiss Paraplegic Group (SPG) is a global and unique network of services that provides for the comprehensive rehabilitation of people living with spinal cord injuries – from the scene of the accident or the diagnosis of a disease until the end of the patients’ lives. The SPG offers services in four key areas: Solidarity (Swiss Paraplegic Foundation, Benefactors’ Association, Hotel Sempachersee), Medicine (Swiss Paraplegic Centre, ParaHelp), Education, research, innovation (Swiss Paraplegic Research, Sirmed, Innovation Centre for Assistive Technology) and Integration and lifelong assistance (Swiss Paraplegics Association, Orthotec, Active Communication). Around 1,800 professionals and specialists from a variety of areas and disciplines work together closely to fulfil this core mission.
Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPF)
The Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPF) is one of Switzerland's largest not-for-profit solidarity networks. The Swiss Paraplegic Group offers a comprehensive network of services to people with spinal cord injuries. Its combination of dependable services - from support at the scene of the accident to medical treatment, rehabilitation and lifelong assistance - is unmatched in Switzerland. The 1.8 million members of the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation Benefactors' Association provide the solidarity network with a strong and sustainable financial base.
Benefactors’ Association of the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation
With over 1.8 million members, the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation Benefactors’ Association is one of the largest membership organisations in Switzerland. It was founded in 1978. The membership fees of this solidarity-based association allow for the Foundation’s objectives to be met: comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation, and the re-integration of para- and tetraplegics into their family, professional and social lives. Members who suffer an accident that results in a spinal cord injury and permanent dependence on a wheelchair will receive a payment of 250,000 Swiss francs. This kind of support is not only unique to Switzerland, but to the entire world.
The Hotel Sempachersee (HSS) in Nottwil is a subsidiary of the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation. The HSS is an ISO-certified hotel and has been named Swiss Conference Hotel of the Year on eight different occasions. Renovated in the fall of 2017, the hotel now boasts 41 conference rooms, three outdoor meeting spaces, two auditoriums, a lecture hall, the “Sempia” à la carte restaurant, the “Vivace” buffet-style restaurant, the “Aurora” banquet-style restaurant, the Lago bar with its garden lounge, the Onda bar in the GZI and 150 hotel rooms. Thanks to its wheelchair accessibility, the HSS is the perfect meeting place for both wheelchair- and non-wheelchair-users alike.
The Swiss Paraplegic Centre (SPC) is a privately owned clinic known all over Switzerland for being the leaders in the primary care, acute treatment, comprehensive rehabilitation and lifelong support of people living with spinal cord injuries and spinal cord-related syndromes. The SPC has 158 beds and an intensive care unit. The annual bed occupancy is 92%. In 2019, the SPC performed 1,250 inpatient treatments and over 52,000 days of care. The SPC employs 1,250 people from 80 different professional backgrounds. Since opening in 1990, over 250,000 inpatient and outpatient treatments have been conducted at the centre.
The SPC was opened by Dr Guido A. Zäch in 1990. The specialised clinic is part of the Swiss Paraplegic Group (SPG), which is comprised of an extensive network of services providing for the the comprehensive rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injuries. The network is backed by the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPF).
Swiss Paraplegic Centre - renovation and expansion
After a groundbreaking ceremony on 1 October 2015, construction is now well underway in Nottwil, and intended to build upon our past success. The expansion will create room for additional wards, a new intensive care unit and state-of-the-art operating rooms. A solution to the shortages of the past few years, the expansion will allow for approximately 1,300 inpatient treatments to be performed in the future (compared to 1,000 today). By the end of 2020, there will be a total of 190 available beds for such treatments. The clinic will continue to offer full outpatient and inpatient services throughout the construction period.
ParaHelp advises and supports people with SCI disabilities and their families across Switzerland on matters of care and support, tailoring its advice to suit their specific needs. The focus is on rehabilitation at home, avoiding complications and promoting quality of life.
Swiss Paraplegic Research (SPR), founded in 2000, is a research institution that is backed by the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPF). SPR employs 65 members of staff. SPR conducts comprehensive rehabilitation research on the interaction between physical, mental and social factors in the development and overcoming of disabilities. SPR cooperates with other organisations at a national and international level. Recognised and promoted by the Swiss government and cantonal authorities as a non-university research institution, SPR, which has created an endowed professorship, a seminar on health sciences and health policy at the University of Lucerne and a Master’s Programme in Health Sciences, plays an important role in Switzerland’s research environment.
The online community reaches out to people living with spinal cord injuries, as well as the latter’s families and friends. The online community is ideal for exchanging ideas or obtaining valuable information from professionals.
Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Cohort Study (SwiSCI):
the SwiSCI is the national research platform for people with spinal cord injuries. It is operated by Swiss Paraplegic Research in conjunction with all paraplegia centres in Switzerland and the SUVA (Swiss National Accident Insurance Fund).
Sirmed, the Swiss Institute of Emergency Medicine, is a subsidiary of the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPF). Sirmed is an expert in the administration of high-quality training in the fields of rescue and emergency medicine. Its courses are geared towards professionals and laypeople alike.
The Swiss Paraplegic Foundation introduced the Innovation Centre for Assistive Technology (IAT) on 1 January 2018. As a centre of expertise and knowledge factory, it is the point of contact for the development and enhancement of resources for people with spinal cord injuries.
Orthotec is a subsidiary of the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPF) with headquarters at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre (SPC) in Nottwil. Orthotec offers a wide range of services to SPC patients as well as members of the public, covering topics such as orthopaedics, rehabilitation and wheelchair technology, and vehicle adaptation. Orthotec is also the market leader in the area of incontinence care.
Active Communication AG has been a subsidiary of the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPF) since 1 January 2018. AC has been providing electronic and didactic aids to people with disabilities or neurological disorders since 1999, helping patients to enjoy increased activity and autonomy in their everyday lives.
The Swiss Paraplegic Association (SPA), which was founded in 1980 and has a membership of around 11,000, is the national umbrella organisation for people with spinal cord injuries. It promotes, represents and coordinates the interests of paraplegics, tetraplegics and other members throughout all of Switzerland. The SPA also provides support to 27 Swiss wheelchair clubs.
Its approximately 220 employees (100 of which are full-time) and 2,000 volunteers strive to meet the social, political and personal needs of its members, and are committed to helping paraplegics and tetraplegics to reintegrate into society and improve their quality of life. Its services include the Institute for Legal Advice, Wheelchair Sport Switzerland (promotion of elite and grassroots sports), the Centre for Wheelchair-Accessible Construction and the Departments of Life Guidance and Culture and Leisure, the latter of which has its own travel agency and fleet of tour buses. The SPA publishes the member magazine “Paracontact", the sports bulletin ‘GoAhead” and the directory for wheelchair-accessible hotels www.rollihotel.ch, and provides sports information at www.rollstuhlsportevents.ch.