Work will begin immediately on a €3 million education, research and care centre for heart patients, their families and the general community in the west.
Croí, the West of Ireland Cardiac Foundation is set to lead the way nationally with the establishment of this first-of-its-kind facility which will be located off Thomas Hynes Road in Newcastle, adjacent to both University Hospital Galway and NUI Galway.
The long-term lease for the site, which was gifted to the heart charity by the Galway City Council, was signed yesterday (Wednesday ). The ambitious project will be completed by September 2011.
Neil Johnson, the chief executive of Croi, says the initiative is a “very exciting” development in the life of the western charity, bringing the organisation closer to achieving one of its long term goals - building Croí House.
“Croí House or the West of Ireland Heart Health Centre will be the only resource of its kind in this country,” he says. “Ireland’s first dedicated heart health centre will provide dedicated facilities and support to people affected by cardiovascular disease in the west of Ireland. It will provide family accommodation for relatives of cardiac surgery patients; screening and outreach facilities for patients and their families and a base for Croí’s community heart health team. Most importantly though, the Croi Centre will be a centre for cardiovascular disease prevention - a dedicated facility leading a range of innovative prevention programmes including lifestyle modification and intervention.”
As well as providing a flagship headquarters for Croí, the two-storey, 1,400sq metre building will also house facilities for research, education and training in cardiovascular health. This will further consolidate the charity’s position as a “thought leader” in the area of heart health and heart disease prevention in Ireland, he says.
The decision to set up the centre was taken about five years ago, according to Mr Johnson. The organisation has been fundraising for the project since then.
“The reason behind the centre is multi-faceted. We’ve had a major shift in our activities to being more community focused, ie, heart disease prevention education, training, research and so forth. The centre will tick a lot of boxes in terms of what we’re trying to do. We will provide accommodation on a low cost basis for relatives of patients requiring heart surgery, we will train facilitators - we aim to get as many people trained in CPR and the use of defibrillators as possible. We are currently running a High Risk Intervention Programme for those at risk of cardiovascular disease. Three hundred and fifty people per year benefit from that lifestyle and behavioural change project which is a living version of the television programme “How long will I live? This is one of our big projects which is currently based in Liosbaun and will transfer to the Croi centre.
“There are a lot of other community projects involved in supporting community cardio echo programmes which aim to offer a service in the community to GPs, allowing for the early and more rapid diagnosis of certain heart conditions. For a long time we have been looking at what can be done re sudden cardiac death, particularly in young people. We have plans for at least some sort of support programme for families affected and we are also looking at a way of screening for this condition. Our greatest aspiration at one level would be to have some educational experience around heart health and cardiovasular disease targeted at young people - a type of museum/exhibition type learning experience whereby young children could come and learn about heart health and a healthy lifestyle. We would be looking at touch screen technology, 3 D animation.”
Professor Kieran Daly, a consultant cardiologist and Croí chairman, says over the past 25 years the charity has played a leading role in promoting and supporting the development of heart services and facilities.
“In that time the foundation has impacted in virtually every area of cardiac care. The signing of the lease marks another major milestone in the fight against heart disease. Being a step closer to establishing a community base for heart health education and support is a monumental day for Croí and we are truly grateful to Galway City Council for its very generous support.”
Nationally 36 per cent of all deaths are of a cardiovascular nature, says Neil Johnson. There was some evidence until recently that the prevalence of heart disease was greater in the west, he says.
“Now this seems to have levelled out to national prevalence. There is a suggestion it has almost reduced in the west. That’s some way due to the work of Croi - the promotion of heart health has contributed to that.”