A cross border conference in Omagh has highlighted that hundreds of patients have been treated for sexually transmitted infections in Genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics – including 200 at Letterkenny General Hospital.
The clinics which were established with European Union funding for sexual health services, secured by Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT), the cross border health services partnership.
Attendees at the cross border sexual health conference ‘A Celebration of a New Service’ in Omagh were informed about the successful project, which has established new and additional sexual health/GUM clinics in local borders areas including Letterkenny General Hospital, Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Derry and Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh.
To date 200 patients have received treatment at Letterkenny General Hospital’s weekly GUM clinic which commenced in September 2011 with funding from the EU’s INTERREG IVA programme.
This means that people living in Donegal now have better access to locally based sexual health services which are delivered by a multidisciplinary team and provide a comprehensive service for people concerned about Sexually Transmitted Infections and their sexual health in general.
Speaking at the conference about the cross border initiative, Prof Sam McConkey, Project Chair and Head of Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine, HSE said: “In the border counties as in other parts of Ireland, we are seeing increasing numbers of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). STIs have a very human cost and may have long term effects on people’s lives in addition to the significant financial cost to the health service in managing the consequences of late diagnosis or untreated infection. With the implementation of these much needed additional services, people will have better access to expert advice and treatment, allowing us to both prevent and treat STIs earlier, ultimately reducing healthcare costs at a later stage.”
On behalf of the Project Board, Kieran Doherty, General Manager of Primary, Community and Continuing Care, Donegal commented: “We are delighted that this EU investment has enabled the development of a Genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic at Letterkenny General Hospital so that we can provide better access to sexual health services. Anyone concerned about their sexual health can now access sexual health services locally. Significantly, this project has created a border-wide network of services which are fully accessible to people within their local communities and are proactive in promoting the importance of good sexual health.”
Commenting on the new services, CAWT’s Chief Officer, Bernie McCrory said: “CAWT’s role is to improve access and to facilitate greater integration between both health services in the border area. The expansion of sexual health services in the border region is one of 12 cross border services which the CAWT partner organisations are taking forward between now and 2014. This is a significant investment in sexual services and will improve the health and well-being of people living in the Donegal area.”
The conference was attended by health services staff and representatives from voluntary organisations from both sides of the border. A range of health experts addressed the conference including Dr. Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Northern Ireland; Dr. Aidan O’Hora, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre in the Republic where his main areas of responsibility include surveillance of Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV and Dr. Neil Irvine, Consultant in Health Protection at the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland where he has lead responsibility for the health protection aspects of sexual health, including the surveillance of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Attendees at the CAWT cross border sexual health conference to mark the opening of new EU funded sexual health / GUM clinics in border areas (left to right): Pauline Browne, Clinical Nurse Manager, Letterkenny General Hospital; Prof Wallace Dinsmore, GUM Consultant, Letterkenny General Hospital; Marian Martin, Project Manager, CAWT GUM project; Prof. Sam McConkey, Head of International Health and Tropical Medicine, HSE and Eliz Ann McKevitt, Sexual Health Promotion Officer, HSE Dublin North-East.