The Geriatric Emergency Medicine Service (GEMS) and the Age Friendly Hospital Initiatives at St Luke’s General Hospital Carlow-Kilkenny, were launched by The Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Mental Health, Mr Jim Daly,
Established in 2017, GEMS is an interdisciplinary team, consisting of a Consultant Geriatrician, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist and Administrative support.
All patients who are aged 75 years and over who attend the Acute Floor (Emergency Department and Acute Medical Assessment Unit) at St Luke’s are screened at triage for Frailty. When a patient is deemed to be positive for Frailty, they then receive a Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment within 72 hours by the specialty team. The service ensures early intervention for older people and avoids functional decline while in hospital.
A designated inpatient ward area was opened for GEMS patients to support effective delivery of this programme. More recently, a ‘home GEMS’ team has been put in place to support frail, older people make the transition from hospital to home.
In July 2016, St Luke’s established its Age Friendly Hospital Committee, with representation from Age Friendly Ireland, The Kilkenny Age Friendly Seniors’ Forum, The Carlow Older Persons’ Network, staff and management from St Luke’s and South East Community Healthcare. The group set about asking older people what could be improved upon in the hospital to make it more age friendly.
A Walkability Study, focus groups in Carlow and Kilkenny, and a Transport Survey with patients from Carlow and Kilkenny led to an action plan being drawn up. The main areas for improvement were around signage, lighting, seating, parking and transport to and from the hospital.
“Through the work of GEMS and Age Friendly Hospital Project, there is now an enhanced level of awareness that has been built up across the hospital of the specific needs of older people,” said Anne Slattery, General Manager, St Luke’s.
“The process did take some effort – some of the steps were relatively straightforward and some were more ambitious. We recognise that we have still a way to go to delivering a truly Age Friendly Hospital, but we are very proud of the work that we have done in such a short time. None of this would have been possible without the support of organisations such as Age Friendly Ireland, the Kilkenny Age Friendly County Alliance, and both the Kilkenny Age Friendly Seniors Forum and the Carlow Older People’s Network, along with the Ireland East Hospital Group and the HSE. This is just the start of our age friendly journey.”