A medical first was awarded to the county when the first ever “Quality of Practice Award” was made to Dr Aidan Roarty last weekend.
Dr. Roarty hails from Manorcunnigham originally and now works as a GP in the Buncrana Medical Centre.
The son of Leonard and Pauline Roarty, he went to school in St Eunan’s College before studying medicine at UCD graduating in 2005.
A keen sportsman, he played soccer with Drumoghil FC and hurling for St Eunan’s but also served as team doctor to the Donegal GAA football team during their historic year of lifting the National League Title in 2007.
As well completing several professional courses in Ireland he continued his work and studies when he moved to Australia where he practiced in the state of Victoria.
After this he completed a year of advanced training in Australia specialising in chronic disease management including diabetes. He obtained a certificate in Rural Emergency Skills Trauma from the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and was awarded Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
He returned to Donegal in 2012 and was appointed Senior Area Medical Officer for North Donegal before joining the team at Buncrana Medical Centre as a General Practitioner.
Dr Roarty became the first person from the county to win a “Quality of Practice Award” and was presented with the accolade at a presentation in Galway recently.
He said it was great to be awarded the honour and he was proud to claim the prize for the team at Buncrana Medical Centre.
His idea stemmed from the notion he could help improved local services for patients living with diabetes in the aftermath of the devastating floods that hit Letterkenny General Hospital last July.
He explains: “A quality of practice Award is where you have to come up with something that causes an improvement for patient care. It has to be relatively inexpensive and it has to be something that hasn’t really been done before. It also has to be relatively simple and, ultimately, you have to show that it actually works. I hadn’t set out to do it but when Letterkenny General Hospital flooded, all the diabetic patients from Buncrana, if we wanted to refer them to a clinic it had to be Sligo, 95 miles away, which was a long way to travel and Altnagalvin hospital were only dealing with emergency cases. So traditionally it would have been the adult children of elderly patients that would take them to hospital. The problem with that now is Inishowen, like Donegal generally, has been decimated by immigration, so those adult children are not there, in many cases, to take them. So what we decided to do was two things: we got the diabetic nurses who were normally in Letterkenny to come and see the patients in Buncrana. The other thing was we set up an education evening, where people could come to the practice and we would talk about things like diet, different types of food, medication and we would do that every month or so.”
He says that over three moths of this the team could show that 80% of their patients improved their blood sugar levels through this simple idea.
The cost was nominal given the nurses were already employed within the HSE and the staff at the clinic conducted the education evenings themselves.
This formed the basis of Dr Roarty’s Quality Improvement Practice submission, which sat along side along all other submissions from practices around the country.
He said it was an honour to even make the shortlist in the prestigious event.
This led him to Galway last weekend where he was pitted against two other medical practices and all three submission were subjected to rigorous scrutiny by a team of expert judges at the AGM of the Irish College of General Practitioners.
“After the three of us presented, the others were asthma care and another practice were on COPD care so we were pleasantly surprised when we found out that we won it.”
He said it was great to see something positive come from the catastrophic flood that caused so much damage to the county’s primary health facility last summer.
“This the first time a practice in Donegal ever got this and the fact we got in the background of not having a functioning hospital at the time is what probably put us in the lime light.
“You always hear lots of negative things about Letterkenny Hospital and Donegal so it was nice to have something positive.”
The innovation saved many of those living with diabetes lengthy journeys to Sligo or further a field, as well as the associated cost with it.
Aidan explained that he described the scenario to the event judges and fellow medical professionals that it would be similar to telling a patient living in a part of Dublin that they would have to travel to Belfast for their treatment.
“They are just not going to travel and it is unfair to expect them to,” he stated.
“All we wanted to do was help improve treatments for patients and while it is nice to win the award, it wasn’t the real reason we did this.”