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New Care Pathway provides vital supports for cardiac patients

 Dr Susan Connolly with her team and patient Noel Ridge at the Galway City Hub.



"The support I receive at the hub provides great comfort because I'm not waiting for hospital appointments that are months or a year apart,” according to Noel Ridge, a patient at the Galway Integrated Care Hub. “I've had three heart attacks and been in the hospital 9 times in the last 18 months. But I've come through it.”

The Enhanced Community Care (ECC) pathway for cardiology has been operational since March 2023 under the joint governance of the Saolta University Health Care Group and Community Healthcare West.

Patients availing of the new hospital avoidance pathways have praised the enhancement in care.

The ECC programme has been transformational for the care of patients with chronic cardiovascular disease. According to Dr Susan Connolly, Cardiologist with UHG, who also leads the cardiology service in the Galway City Integrated Care Hub, they have seen “298 new patients in the hub and have had 1300 clinical contacts since we started.”

Work carried out by the Galway City Hub has resulted in 300 patients being removed from the Galway University Hospitals waiting list. This has been achieved through a range of initiatives including waiting list validation, a chest pain initiative, the setting up of appointments at the hub instead of at the hospital, and the redirection of the GUH hospital heart failure waiting list to the hub.

Dr Connolly adds that “one of the main benefits we hear from patients is that they now feel they have a safety net. With the chronic disease management service, we meet these patients in the hospital and establish the link with the community service. Two in five patients in Ireland present with more than one chronic condition, which traditionally saw each patient attending a wide range of different hospital services. This care is now streamlined in the hub for patients with multiple conditions.

“We hold regular multi-disciplinary meetings with colleagues across diabetes and nephrology. By all working together we make this journey much more manageable for our patients. We ensure they are only receiving appointments that are necessary.

“It’s not just about providing heart failure care, it’s about providing a holistic service that addresses all their needs in terms of being a cardiovascular patient. We empower them so that they can live with the disease.”

Noel adds that if does not feel well he can “call the hub right away and explain what's happening. Overall, visiting the hub is much more convenient as it is closer to home. Appointments are scheduled at specific times, which reduces a lot of stress."

Dr John Lally, a GP in Galway city, described the Enhanced Community Care programme as a “game-changer. We are now able to send our patients to community-based services for both their diagnostics and their clinical opinion,” he added.