New podiatry clinic opens at Merlin Park

Sharon Whealan, NUI Galway Podiatry School second year student with Lynda Donnellan, senior podiatrist at the HSE podiatry clinic at Merlin Park University Hospital.

Sharon Whealan, NUI Galway Podiatry School second year student with Lynda Donnellan, senior podiatrist at the HSE podiatry clinic at Merlin Park University Hospital.

A new €800,000 podiatry clinic - the only one of its kind in Ireland - which opened recently on the grounds of Merlin Park University Hospital will provide specialised services to people throughout the country.

The facility will also provide clinical placements for students studying the BSc Programme in Podiatry at NUI Galway, the only podiatry degree course in the country.

Podiatry is a healthcare profession which specialises in the management of diseases and disorders of the lower limb and foot. Podiatry care ranges from nail and skin pathologies to the management of patients with diseases which can compromise the viability of the lower foot and lower limbs and mechanical correction of gait and posture.

“The main aim of the clinic is to provide a high standard of evidence-based podiatric care to the whole population of Ireland and to develop a national resource for healthcare providers by becoming an internationally recognised centre for podiatry care, education and research,” explains David Watterson, the manager of the podiatry clinic.

“In addition to treating clients, we are training student podiatrists to assess, diagnose and treat diseases and abnormalities of the lower limb and foot in order to cure or prevent recurrence of the person’s foot problems. Podiatry care can make a big difference to people’s mobility and therefore to their quality of life; not just for older people but those with illnesses such as diabetes and following sports injuries and surgery.”

The clinic is based at Unit 3 in Merlin Park and includes three multi-clinic rooms (with four treatment areas and a supervisor station in each ); four single treatment rooms; an outreach prosthesis clinic for clients of the National Rehabilitation Hospital; a plaster room; and a biomechanical suite which includes specialist equipment to carry out gait analysis, pressure analysis and posture assessment.

Referrals to the clinic are currently through the HSE primary care teams and from consultant-led services such as rheumatology, endocrinology, gerontology and orthopaedics. The facility will begin the roll-out of referrals from GPs and public health nurses in January.

The clinic will maintain 7,000 clients at any one time with up to 25,000 appointments in a calendar year. The majority of clients will be people with chronic and long-term illnesses. International research has shown that podiatry care can improve and maintain the mobility of clients and prevent the requirement for more extensive health care.

The clinic has produced the first set of minimum standards for clinical practice and these are being proposed as the national standard in the state registration process. In addition, the clinic meets the gold standard in infection control through the use of disposable single use instrument sets.

Future developments for the clinic include the development of undergraduate and postgraduate research projects and multi-centre research to promote the centre internationally. It will also aim to form links with other services throughout the world to develop partnership and working relationships with a particular focus on developing countries where podiatry services are limited.


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