Pictured during the event were: Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan TD and Dr. Patrick O’Donnell, GP who is employed as Clinical Fellow in Social Inclusion at the UL Graduate Entry Medical School. Picture by: Alan Place/FusionShooters.
A pilot primary healthcare clinic for marginalised groups that opened in April 2014 in Limerick city has marked its first year in operation with a visit from the Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan TD. The aim of this clinic is to improve access to primary healthcare for groups such as the homeless, drug users, migrants and others who have difficulties in accessing and availing of primary care services in the city.
This healthcare clinic has been established by the Partnership for Health Equity (PHE), which is a unique collaboration of clinicians, medical educators, social scientists and healthcare policy makers and planners. The PHE is co-funded by the University of Limerick, the North Dublin City General Practice Training Programme and the HSE (Social Inclusion & Primary Care Services).
The need for the clinic was identified during a consultation process undertaken by Dr Patrick O’Donnell of the PHE. The project is being supported by Safetynet which is a networking organisation for doctors, nurses and voluntary agencies who provide primary health care to homeless people and other marginalised groups in Dublin, Cork and Galway.
Dr Patrick O’Donnell, a GP who is employed as Clinical Fellow in Social Inclusion at the UL Graduate Entry Medical School, runs the clinics at two locations – the Ana Liffey Drug Project at the Fairgreen and at the St Vincent DePaul Drop-in Centre on Hartstonge Street. Both of these agencies have a history of advocacy and case working for vulnerable clients in the Limerick area. From these locations Dr O’Donnell works with many of the statutory and voluntary services in the city and he visits some of the homeless hostels across the city. Dr O’Donnell has seen over 200 patients for more than 500 consultations in the last year. In the future the clinics will also serve as sites for research and the teaching of students on issues related to the healthcare of marginalised groups.
Speaking after visiting the clinic at the St Vincent DePaul Drop-in Centre, Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan TD said:
“I am very supportive of the important work that the GP clinic is achieving. The clinic is reaching out to vulnerable people who may otherwise not receive the advice and care they need. Dr. O’Donnell and his partners in this initiative are making a real difference in people’s lives. Importantly, this service was developed following consultation with potential service users, their families, and statutory and voluntary agencies. This work has ensured that the service is accessible and appropriate to the need of vulnerable people. In less than a year there have been more than 400 patient contacts which proves how necessary this service is.”
Comment from Diane Nurse, National Lead in Social Inclusion at the Health Service Executive:
“The HSE is committed to providing a responsive, quality service that meets the health and support needs of marginalised service users. The unique partnership approach of the PHE in delivering this service, learning from its outcomes and adapting accordingly has laid a foundation for further innovative action research initiatives that hold the vulnerable service user at their centre. We are delighted to be in a position to continue supporting this very worthwhile primary healthcare project”.
Comment from Professor Anne MacFarlane, Professor of Primary Healthcare Research at University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School and Director of the Partnership for Health Equity (you can find the website here):
“There is consistent evidence that people who need primary care are least likely to get it. This low threshold GP clinic is an important service which strives to ‘reach out’ and provide GP care to people with complex health and social care needs. Knowledge from the clinic will inform new research projects and recommendations for policy. This ‘feedback loop’ between practice, research and policy is essential for improving the nature of primary healthcare service provision.”
Comment from Dr Austin O’Carroll, Programme Director of the North Dublin City General Practice Training Scheme, founder of Safetynet Ireland (visit the Safetynet website here) and Director of the Partnership for Health Equity:
“Safetynet are delighted to work with and support this fantastic Partnership for Health Equity project. Services like this demonstrate how our health system responds compassionately and pragmatically to those isolated on the margins of our society. The fact that they reduce the burden on our overstretched hospital system is a welcome additional achievement.”