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Top award for young Donegal GP

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BY HARRY WALSH

A YOUNG Donegal doctor has won the prestigious Irish College of General Practitioners Quality in Practice Award for 2014.

Dr Aidan Roarty, from Manorcunningham, was selected for his work on the care of diabetic patients in Buncrana Medical Centre.

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Effectively the ‘GP of the Year’ awards, they recognise improvements or innovations implemented by individuals in a general practice setting in Ireland.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week, Dr Roarty said that he was surprised to win the top award which was announced at the College of General Practitioners AGM in the Radisson Hotel, Galway, last weekend.

He was one of three GPS short-listed for the award, who presented their entry in a workshop setting at the AGM.

By running diabetic educational evenings and getting the diabetic nurses to run clinics in the Buncrana practice, Dr Roarty improved the diabetic care for 86 per cent of patients there. This was done on the background of not having a fully functional hospital in Letterkenny due to the flooding last July
“Basically, we empowered the diabetic patient to take control of their diabetes and improve their own health using current evidenced based medicine,” he said.

“We have a large number of diabetic patients, almost 300, in Buncrana and out of a negative (flooding) we have managed to create a positive,” Dr Roarty added.

At the end of last year, Buncrana Medical Centre conducted an audit on diabetic patient care in a bid to ‘sort’ patients in descending level of seriousness, encourage improved lifestyle and diabetes control to reduce HBA1C level.
Emigration and the cost of patients having to attend clinics in Galway (post flooding) were also huge factors in seeking improvements in the practice.

“This area of Inishowen has been decimated by unemployment which, as a result, has led to a huge number of adult children being forced to emigrate in search of work, leaving elderly parents – many with diabetes – on their own at home.

“The final trigger was when I learned that an elderly man took a bus from Buncrana to Derry and then another to Donegal Town before taking a taxi, which cost him €138 one way, to Galway. No one can afford to be paying out such huge sums of money,” Dr Roarty said.

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Prior to the audit, there were no specific clinics to target the silent killer.
“I would like to pay particular thanks to all GPs and nurses for taking on the extra workload during a busy period due to the flooding in Letterkenny,” he said.

Analysis of results showed an overall decline in patient HBA1C levels, 86.3 per cent had a decline in their HBA1C reading – the average decrease was 14.5.
HBA1C is a lab test that shows the average level of blood sugar (glucose) over the previous three months. It shows how well you are controlling your diabetes.
“Not only had we improved matters we were able to show that when we compared data we were now better than the national average,” Dr Roarty said.

“We also had to show that it was cost neutral. The flooding at the hospital was thrust upon us all and we decided to do something about it so I suppose you could say that out of a negative came a positive for diabetes patients in Buncrana, as no other practice operated such a system in Donegal,” he said.

“The outcome is encouraging and in line with what we set out to achieve, however some patients still have a high cardiovascular risk with unacceptably high HBA1C levels.

“The longest journeys must begin with the first step and we have on this cycle taken that first tentative step. Although the set up was initially challenging, the results speak for themselves and set achievable targets for other practices across Ireland to follow. We must now continue to build on the progress made in diabetic treatment in our practice,” he said.

Dr Roarty graduated from University College Dublin in 2005. He then trained on the Donegal GP scheme, graduating in 2011, before he completed a year of advanced training in Australia, specialising in chronic disease management including diabetes.

He returned to Donegal in 2012 and was appointed Senior Area Medical Officer for North Donegal. In addition to children’s health and chronic disease management, Dr Roarty maintains an interest in sports medicine. He was the team Doctor for the Donegal Senior Gaelic football team and has published reports on sports injuries.

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