Letterkenny man treating the pains of the Troubles

A LETTERKENNY man helping to give people a better future by treating the effects of a troubled past has won two awards at the prestigious Advancing Healthcare Awards in Northern Ireland.
Francis McMonagle, a son of Charlie and Margaret McMonagle, from Leck is employed as a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
He helped develop a pilot project to treat people who had developed chronic pain due to their experiences in the past conflict and troubles in the Six-counties.
As well as triumphing in the Innovation and Creativity category the programme also scooped the overall winner award, seeing of stiff competition from seven other category winners. Mr McMonagle co-ordinated the pilot service with Irene Sherry who is head of victims and mental health services at the trust’s Bridge of Hope Department.
The programme ran for nine months and was open to individuals with persistent pain, who were physically or psychologically affected by incidents brought about by the Northern conflict. People could refer themselves for treatment or be referred by friends, family or health professionals.
Speaking to The Donegal News this week Mr McMonagle said he was delighted to see the project recognised, especially given the quality of all the other finalists.
“Our main aim was to improve the health and quality of life of our participants and also to raise awareness of the link between psychological trauma and chronic pain. What we have seen is there is generally poor recognition of the links between traumatic stress and other mental health issues and the knock-on effect on our physical health,” Mr McMonagle said.
Like all health services either North or South of the border, funding is the key issue facing such innovative projects.
“Hopefully because of the success of the service, and with the recognition from the Healthcare awards, we will be able to attract more funding. Myself and Irene would love to see the programme become a permanent and regional service and from our experiences this year it is very much needed.
“There are a lot of people from both sides of the community still suffering major trauma because of the troubles and we don’t want to see them forgotten about,” he said.
To improve pain management and quality of life the team combined specialist physiotherapist techniques with mindfulness-meditation and Tai Chi to help manage mental health problems as well as treat physical symptoms. The feedback was extremely positive from the participants with the vast majority of responses scored as ‘excellent’.
When announcing Francis and Irene as the overall award winners the judges from Advancing Healthcare stated “this community service shows that world class quality care does not need to be complicated. An example of challenging the status quo”.

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