Portiuncula staff commence training on new telemedicine technology

Staff based at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, have commenced training on new telemedicine machines which will provide 24-hour services to the hospital, including an emergency stroke service that will save local lives.

Earlier this year Portiuncula took delivery of a new telemedicine stroke machine, which not only provides stroke services but can also be used by consultants based anywhere in the world to assess local patients. Initially, the machines will be used to link the Intensive Care Unit [ICU] at Portiuncula with some of the major hospitals in the country. This will allow for critically ill patients to remain in the ICU at Portiuncula while under the care of some of the top specialists in the field.

“This is a major step forward because instead of patients having to wait to get a specialist ICU bed in some of the bigger centres, they can remain in their local hospital with access to the best medical advice and the care of the local expert ICU staff,” explained Independent TD Denis Naughten. “The machine in question, the Teledoc stroke machine, will over time transform the way we provide medicine in our level three hospitals. It has the ability to ensure that these hospitals have one of the best emergency stroke services in the world.

This new machine is one of seven which, until exposed by Deputy Naughten, remained in storage for a number of years in a warehouse in Cork waiting to be rolled out by the HSE to hospitals throughout the country. “The importance of this machine to the hospital cannot be underestimated, particularly since the loss of Potiuncula’s stroke consultant in March, 2013,” Naughten says.

“Since then the hospital has unsuccessfully tried to recruit a new consultant. The lack of such a service in Portiuncula means that someone diagnosed with a stroke within four hours of its onset must be transferred to Galway, 40 minutes or more away. For every minute that treatment is delayed a victim loses two million brain cells.

“This results in local patients losing 80 million brain cells while they travel in the ambulance between Ballinasloe and Galway and spending longer in hospital. They are also more likely to require long-term nursing home care.”

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