New health centre strikes at the heart of illnessesSeptember 7, 2012 - 7:00am
When 35-year-old Edel O’Loughlin from Mayo suffered a heart attack just after having a baby recently, her trauma was immense. She didn’t want to be separated from her new infant, but she needed medical attention and her baby couldn’t be with her in hospital. A solution came courtesy of the West of Ireland Heart and Stroke foundation, Croí.
Its new Heart and Stroke Centre just 10 minutes’ walk from the hospital has three self-contained apartments providing low-cost accommodation for families of people undergoing surgery at UHG. The apartments can also house patients after operations, when they aren’t well enough to go home, but don’t need to be in hospital.
At the Croí Centre, these residents are supported by medical staff, as well as having access to hospital expertise. And that’s where Edel lived, with her husband and baby until she was well enough to go home, explains Croí CEO, Neil Johnson.
The short-stay apartments are just one facet of this beautiful and functional new building in Moyola Lane, Newcastle, which will “be used 24/7” in order to keep people healthy and out of hospital, if Neil has his way. Croí has always supported “the development of a public infrastructure for everybody”, says Neil and this Centre continues that philosophy, with training and education for people at risk of or recovering from heart attacks and strokes.
The Croí Centre has a generous exercise area, top-class seminar and conference rooms and consultation rooms. The organisation’s 17 staff, from fundraisers to dieticians to doctors, are based here – the first time they have all been under one roof.
It cost €3.7 million to build and has been totally paid for, thanks to the generosity of people from Galway and the West of Ireland. That generosity extended to the site, which the Newcastle Residents Association and Galway County Council gave to Croí at a peppercorn rent. The only public money Croí received was €60,000 from the National Lottery for a fitout, says Neil Johnson.
The charity Croí was founded in the mid 1980s to develop diagnostic and treatment facilities in the West of Ireland for cardiology patients – at that time this part of the country lagged way behind the east coast and that affected people’s health. In those early days, Croí partnered with the Western Health Board to develop a cardiology infrastructure.
Neil became Croí’s first full-time employee in 1993: his job was to raise the charity’s profile and fundraise so that it could achieve its aims.
Calm, hardworking and focused, he has proved ideal for the task, supported by an extraordinary army of volunteers and fundraisers. Since 1993 Croí has raised and invested well over €10 million in cardiac facilities– supporting UHG’s infrastructure, spending on ambulance development and community education and training.
As the hospital’s infrastructure has improved, with open-heart surgery now available, Croí set itself new aims and this Centre was part of these.
The charity decided to build a space that would provide low-cost accommodation for people travelling for major heart surgery and their families. It would offer a space where health specialists and members of the public could be trained in the prevention cardiac problems and strokes.
Even before it was built, Croí was working with people in the area of prevention and with those who have had an incident, helping to prevent a recurrence.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.