Taoiseach’s Award for Portiuncula Hospital’s Heartsafe Schools Initiative

April 23rd 2008

HSE West’s First HeartSafe Schools in Ireland project, which was developed by staff in Resuscitation Department, Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, has been awarded a Taoiseach's Public Service Excellence Award 2008. The Awards are organised as part of the Public Service’s Quality Customer Service Initiative, which aims to provide a consistently high level of service to clients of the public service. The Selection Committee assessed over 180 projects put forward for inclusion for the Taoiseach’s Awards 2008. An initial shortlist of 44 projects was made, from which 20 winners were selected.

The Heartsafe Schools Initiative was developed when the Resuscitation Department in Portiuncula Hospital identified that community projects in CPR training would have a positive effect on survival rates from cardiac events. Bystanders CPR can more than double survival outcomes. Prior to 2002, little or no CPR or First Aid training was provided in the local schools and no lifesaving equipment was available on site. There was little emphasis on cardiac health education in the curriculum, and the role of the Clinical Nurse Specialist in Resuscitation Training was confined to education and training of staff, patients and relatives within the hospital setting. There was minimal awareness among the general public of the benefits of initiatives such as CPR/First Aid/AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) training in saving lives.

In 2002, a project to address this deficit was developed. It targeted Transition Year (TY) students, their teachers and parents in the local Secondary schools (Ardscoil Mhuire and St Joseph’s College, Garbally). Initially CPR/First Aid training was provided to the students. With the success of this project, and a greater awareness of the incidence of sudden cardiac death in schools, a need for a more complete programme was identified.

In conjunction with school management, teachers and students at Ardscoil Mhuire and St. Joseph’s College, Garbally, the following goals were set and achieved:

·       100% of TY Students have been trained in CPR/First Aid
·        100% of the teaching staff were trained in CPR
·      Both schools now have Automatic External Defibrillators
·      Teaching staff in AED/CPR were trained in the first two years of initiative
·      Cardiac Health themes were included in classes such as Home Economics, Biology, P.E and Art. Other initiatives included Student/Teacher fundraising events- (walks, mountain climbing and marathon running) and cardiac health promotion and screening for parents.

The Heartsafe Schools Initiative gives excellent value for money, being delivered from within existing staff resources and no capital outlay to either Health or Education budgets. It is also an innovation in partnership between Hospital and Primary Care Teams, schools and voluntary organisations. The initiative also has great future potential, as it would be easy to replicate in other parts of the country. The programme is ongoing and has been successfully expanded to other schools. AEDs and training have also been provided to local sporting organizations and community groups.

Both schools in Ballinasloe were awarded the Heartsafe School Award from the Irish Heart Foundation, the first schools in the country to achieve this award. The project was recognised for Leading Innovation in the Better Service Awards for HSE West.

Helen Harney, Project Coordinator, says:We are honoured to have the Heartsafe's School project recognised by receiving such a prestigious award. The project is an excellent example of good teamwork. There is now new infrastructure in place between Portiuncula Hospital, the HSE’s PCCC Department, local schools, the Irish Heart Foundation, Croi and the community. All of the people involved in this project are very proud of their involvement with it. The programme is on-going in Ballinasloe and we are presently working with the schools in Loughrea to achieve HeartSafe School status. 

A student representative says of the school programme:The Heartsafe Schools Project was a great experience for the students of Garbally College and Ard Scoil Mhuire. For me, it was particularly useful because of my involvement in playing, coaching, refereeing Gaelic Games both at school and in my local club. It is fantastic to now have the confidance to give Basic First Aid and CPR in an emergency and I hope to continue practicing these skills into the future. It is a must for all schools nowadays to have an A.E.D. on site, and more importantly to have as many staff and students properly trained in its use as possible.


Further information: Mary Garvin, HSE West Communications; Phone 091 77 5474

Last updated on: 23 / 04 / 2008