The heart failure unit at St Vincent's Hospital today celebrated its 10th anniversary with a visit by Minister for Health, Ms Mary Harney TD.
Guests at the special event with the Minister included writer Maeve Binchy, who is a director of the Heartbeat Trust, a charity which works to improve care for those at risk of heart failure and which supports the Heart Failure Unit.
Others at the event included representatives of the HSE, partners of the unit, staff of the unit and the hospital, patients of the unit, GPs, the pharmaceutical industry, and the VHI.
The unit is a collaboration between St Vincent's University Healthcare Group, the HSE and the Heartbeat Trust charity.
Established in 1998 by Professor Ken McDonald as Ireland's first multidisciplinary heart failure management programme, the unit has become an international leader in its field.
Professor McDonald, who heads the unit, said that his team is focused on chronic disease management of heart failure. Its focus is to develop an early warning system for detecting people with cardiomyopathy and help prevent its progression to heart failure.
He said that if the strategy adopted by St Vincent's could be adopted nationally, care would improve and more than 4,000 hospitalisations annually could be prevented by this approach, freeing up in excess of 50,000 bed days, the equivalent of improving the countries bed capacity by 140 beds.
"A more innovative use of technology is vital if Ireland is to improve its European ranking in heart healthcare," he said.
"The bottom line is cardiovascular disease continues to kill more Irish people than any other cause of death and also produce more morbidity and need of hospitalisation. There are clear long-term potential gains to be made from a greater use of technology in this area."
Ireland was ranked 16th of 29 European states in the recent Euro Consumer Heart Index, published by Health Consumer Powerhouse and is behind most western European states.