A €750,000 investment is currently underway at Bantry General Hospital’s local injury unit.
The purpose-built facility should be finalised by mid-February and the hospital manager Carole Croke is seeking to raise awareness about the range of services it provides.
The hospital manager is hoping that greater awareness about the service will lead to a reduction in unnecessary demands on the emergency department at Cork University Hospital (CUH).
The unit is under the governance of Dr Gerry McCarthy, a consultant in emergency medicine in the emergency department at CUH, and is delivered by Dr Rachel Fellowes and her team, as well as Marguerite Murray the clinical nurse manager.
The unit treats between 5,000 and 5,500 people a year. It is one of 11 local injury units in the country that has seamless links with its respective emergency department hub, which in this case is CUH.
‘Because we are so remote,’ Dr Rachel Fellowes said, ‘it is important that the public and GPs are aware of what injuries are appropriate for us to see in the injury unit.
‘We only see patients with injuries that are specified – such as those from shoulder to finger-tip and from knee to toe, as well as wounds that need suturing, as well as foreign bodies in the skin and mild head and eye trauma.
‘What is not included,’ she added, ‘is serious head injury, neck injury, back injury, hip and pelvic injuries, or any intra-abdominal injuries.
‘The unit does see children over the age of five who have injuries.
‘But children under the age of five have to go to CUH,’ she added.
By being so prescriptive about what they can treat, she said, it means they are able to provide an efficient and timely service for the people of West Cork.
Instead of waiting 24 hours, or more, at an emergency department in Cork, patients with the injuries can be seen, x-rayed and treated, usually within a matter of one to two hours.
If a patient needs surgery, or a follow-up with an orthopaedic surgeon, the links to CUH – its specialist centre – will be arranged.
Dr Fellowes said people – including children under five – with injuries that are not appropriate should first contact their GP or the SouthDoc out of hours service and they will be referred to the emergency departments in Cork.
Patients with potentially life-threatening injuries should engage directly with the emergency services or self-present to the emergency department in CUH.
Meanwhile, patients attending the local injury unit can be referred through their GP but they can also self-present at the unit, which is open seven days a week.
It opens at 8am and the last patient is seen at 7.30pm.
Dr Fellowes said the injury unit has very good links with local GPs who always feel free to ring up and discuss cases with them.
However, the fact remains that Bantry General Hospital covers a massive catchment area and sees patients from a region that stretches all the way from Sneem right up to Bandon.
Marguerite Murray said the team are looking forward to the new purpose-built unit opening in February.
‘There is a very clear line as to what we can’t do,’ said the hospital manager Carole Croke.
‘But there is a lot we can do and there is a quicker turnaround time.
‘Patients sitting around in the emergency department at CUH could potentially be waiting 24 or 36 hours but our longest waiting patient is three hours.’
Dr Gerry McCarthy said patients who meet the inclusion criteria will get a rapid service, a highly professional service, with seamless links to the hub emergency department at CUH.