Staff Nurse Danielle Freeman; Clinical Nurse Manager 2 Breda Needham and Multi-Task Attendant Neil Kevin at the new Regional Women's Health Hub in Nenagh
A regional hub for women’s health being established at Nenagh Hospital will improve access to diagnostics and reduce wait times for specialist care for women in the Mid-West.
Located in the new €1.4m extension to the outpatients department in Nenagh, and supported by the Women’s Health Taskforce and the HSE National Women’s and Infants Health Programme (NWIHP), the initiative includes:
- An ambulatory gynaecology unit
- Menopause clinic
- Subfertility service
The ambulatory gynaecology service commenced in March 2022, one of a number of such units opened around the country under national plans to improve outcomes for women through a new model of care.
These services are being established as one-stop, “see-and-treat” gynaecology clinics in which women can be assessed and treated following a GP referral. This new model will improve access to diagnostics and treatment, resulting in fewer hospital visits and reducing overall wait times for women.
Coming under the clinical governance of University Maternity Hospital Limerick, the new ambulatory gynaecology service at Nenagh will provide a range of services to women in the MidWest. These include abnormal intrauterine bleeding, chronic pelvic pain, evaluation of adnexal mass, vulval issues, sexual minority health and amenorrhea in adolescence.
Among the investigations available to women in the MidWest with the establishment of the new service are pelvic ultrasound, diagnostic hysteroscopy and endometrial biopsy. Treatments and minor procedures available in the clinic include both cervical and endometrial polypectomy and intrauterine device management.
Moving to this new model of care will also have benefits for the hospital system, freeing up clinic and theatre capacity for the management of more complex gynaecological patients by managing less complex investigations and procedures in the new clinic in Nenagh.
Dr Naro Imcha, Clinical Lead for Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UL Hospitals Group, said: “The entire team in Nenagh and in the hospital group is very focused on improving the patient experience. This regional hub for women’s health will improve the patient pathway, reduce the number of visits, thereby optimising the patients’ time and reduce their costs. For a majority of cases, the consultation, investigation, and treatment can all be carried out during the first visit. This is a vital and unique opportunity to reduce waiting times and to enhance quality of life for these patients in the Mid-West.”
“State-of-the-art facilities have been made operational. With the collaboration of GPs, patients can be directly referred to the regional hub thus making the process lean, responsive and women-centred. A multidisciplinary clinical team has been assembled to complete the diagnostic cycle in a single visit. The administrative team ensures that the hub is functioning freely from Monday to Friday,” added Dr Imcha.
In the coming weeks, a specialist menopause clinic will open in Nenagh as the regional hub for women’s health continues to take shape. This will initially entail one consultant clinic and one GP clinic per week. A clinical nurse specialist in menopause is also being recruited for this service.
Improving menopause services has been identified as a priority by the Women’s Health Taskforce and the Nenagh clinic is among the first four in the country to open through funding announced by the Minister for Health in Budget 2022. While the majority of women seeking help in menopause will continue to be treated and supported by their GP, it is anticipated that around 25% of women will meet the clinical criteria for onward referral to specialist services such as Nenagh.
Dr Cathy Casey, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, UL Hospitals Group, said: “The menopause is a major life event that can affect women in a variety of ways. Its impact can be both short and long-term and can have a detrimental effect on health, quality of life, personal relationships and work. Seventy five per cent of women suffer symptoms and 25% report very severe symptoms. Apart from the symptoms, menopause can have a significant adverse effect on bone health and cardiovascular disease.”
“The time for negativity around menopause is over,” Dr Casey added “It is time to stress the importance of an individualised and holistic approach in managing women going through their menopause transition, including the role of HRT
The importance of accurate, up-to-date information cannot be stressed enough and providing this information allows women to make an informed choice about management of their menopause and into their later years.
We are looking forward to providing a specialised menopausal service for complex cases here in the Womens Health Hub.”
The final element of the new service in Nenagh will see the opening of a subfertility clinic later this year. This has been identified as a key component in the development of fertility services around the country by the National Womens and Infants Health Programme. This service will also be consultant-led and we expect to announce the appointment of a specialist in fertility services later this year.
This is part of a wider ongoing recruitment campaign to support these new services in the Mid-West. This includes medical, nursing (including advanced nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists), allied health (physiotherapy, medical scientist, ultrasonography) administrative and support staff.
All these services are to operate from the new outpatients department extension at Nenagh Hospital, which includes a procedure room, consulting rooms, ultrasound rooms and other facilities specifically for the women’s health hub.
Cathrina Ryan, Director of Nursing, Nenagh Hospital, said: “We are truly privileged as a hospital to be in a position to offer this service to the women of the MidWest in a modern state-of-the-art facility.”
“It has been a pleasure to work with the National Women’s and Infants Health programme to establish this new service. It adds to the range of services available at Nenagh Hospital and it offers fantastic promotional opportunity in the nursing profession. We look forward to further expansion in the coming months."
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