New services for Midwest: Charles Centre For Dermatology opens at University Hospital Limerick

Above: Eamon Mellett, JP McManus Invitational ProAm; Professor Sarah Rogers, Consultant Dermatologist (Retired); Mr Paul Herriott (patient); Prof Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group; Niall O’Higgins, Chairman, Board of UL Hospitals Group; Dr Bart Ramsay, Consultant Dermatologist, UL Hospitals Group. Pictures by Brian Arthur.

The new home of specialist dermatological services at University Hospital Limerick provides new treatments, added capacity and a much improved environment for people with skin conditions and cancers from all over the MidWest.

It is the first time the people in the region have received specialist dermatological services in a purpose-built department in UHL, where dermatology until recently operated from a single dedicated room.

The Charles Centre for Dermatology, which occupies the entire fifth floor of the Leben Building, was developed by the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust. With construction costs of approximately €2.2 million, the new unit was made possible through the generous funding of the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am.

Sheila Ryan, Advanced Nurse Practitioner Dermatology, shows her delight at the opening of the Charles Centre for Dermatology. Pictures by Brian Arthur.

In addition, the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust supported the purchase of a Reflectance Confocal Microscope (RCM) at a cost of €150,000 in 2011. This was the first RCM to be available for full-time use in a dermatology department in Britain and Ireland. It enables a virtual non-invasive biopsy of the skin and enhances diagnosis of skin cancers.

Dr Bart Ramsay, Consultant Dermatologist, UL Hospitals Group talks CEO Prof Colette Cowan through the finer points of confocal microscopy at the official opening of the Charles Centre for Dermatology at UHL. Pictures by Brian Arthur.

The new department is named after the Charles Family, members of whom were essential in founding and running the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital on Hume Street. The hospital was founded in 1911 by Dr Andrew Charles. Many patients from the MidWest were cared for in the hospital in the past. In addition, a number of our consultant and nursing staff worked and gained valuable skills in this institution.

In 2006, the hospital closed, with dermatological services transferring to the Charles Centre for Dermatology at St Vincent’s University Hospital. In addition, the sale of the hospital facilitated the development of the Charles Institute at UCD and the Irish Skin Foundation.

The City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital, in conjunction with the HSE, is funding specialist dermatology equipment for the new service at University Hospital Limerick.

Speaking at the official opening in Limerick today, Prof Niall O’Higgins, Chairman, UL Hospitals Group, said: “During the past five years, the development of specialist services at the UL Hospitals Group has been astonishing. Facilities and programmes of the highest quality have been established for cardiology, intensive care, critical care, breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, stroke and Parkinson’s Disease and a sparkling new Centre for Education and Research have now been joined by an outstanding and imposing centre for afflictions of the skin – the Charles Centre for Dermatology.

“Strongly based on the current best practices laid down by specialist medical doctors and high standards of specialised nursing care, assisted by powerful support from the HSE and the Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital Charity and further driven by the prodigious efforts of the MidWestern Hospitals Development Trust, the Charles Centre provides further evidence that the UL Hospitals Group remains on target to be among the best providers of hospital services in Ireland by 2018.”

“On behalf of the Board of the UL Hospitals Group, I wish to congratulate all those involved in this singular development. It is certain to result in real improvement in the care of patients with skin diseases, one of the most important and yet most frequently neglected specialties in medicine,” said Prof O’Higgins.

Prof Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group said: “There has been significant development of the dermatology services in the region over the last few years in resources and facilities, most recently the opening of a new outpatients clinic in Ennis Hospital. This is in response to significant increased demand at UL Hospitals for dermatology services, with new referrals having increased by 132% over the last four years. It is appropriate then that this growing cohort of patients should have access to more modern treatments in a more appropriate environment. And we know from their feedback that our dermatology patients are delighted with the new environment.”

Prof Sarah Rogers, Consultant Dermatologist (retired) added: “ I am honoured to be part of the opening of the Charles Centre for Dermatology at Limerick. I opened the first Dermatology Day Care service in Ireland at Hume Street Hospital in 1986, which facilitated those in the Dublin area. At that time, patients from all over the country only had to access to inpatient dermatology services in Dublin, but it is now tremendous to see the provision of these services to people where they live, in their own locality. The development of the Charles Centre for Dermatology is a truly great achievement and I wish the team my very best in this great endeavour. “

Jim Canny, Chairman, MidWestern Hospitals Development Trust, described the centre as “a new phase in the delivery of services by Dr Bart Ramsay, Consultant Dermatologist, and his team for dermatology patients in the MidWest and complements the many other healthcare services here at UHL”.

“The new centre offers a first-class service for patients suffering from skin conditions. Needless to say, the Board of the Trust is pleased that we have finally reached this stage. This afternoon marks the culmination of a multi-year programme involving many people whose support and generosity has had a major input towards this successful outcome, of which we are proud. I would like to thank Mr and Mrs JP McManus and family, and the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am, for the enormous contribution they have made to hospital and healthcare services in the Mid-West over many, many, years and to the HSE for its support,” Mr Canny said.

Janice Hehir, a patient from Corbally, said: “I have psoriasis and I have been attending the dermatology services in Limerick for many years. There is no comparison between the old and new environment. Before you would wait on what could be any old outpatients corridor whereas now you are in a proper self-contained clinic with separate waiting, consultation and treatment areas. Whereas before you would have to roam around the hospital between the waiting area and the light therapy room, now everything is all under one roof. It is bright, it is spacious and you don’t feel as cramped or rushed. For patients, things like that can make an enormous difference.”

Sheila Ryan, Advanced Nurse Practitioner Dermatology, added: “In 2006, I was part of the development of the Charles Centre at St Vincent’s University Hospital and earlier worked at The City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital. I am privileged and grateful to be a part of the development of the Charles Centre for Dematology in Limerick. This new development has allowed us to develop a range of services at Limerick, Nenagh and Ennis Hospitals which will greatly enhance patient access to dermatology services across the region.

“The new department caters for approximately 12,000 outpatient consultant visits per annum with additional clinics by an advanced nurse practitioner. In addition we offer a range of day care services including skin surgery, phototherapy, patch testing, photodynamic therapy and confocal microscopy. The development of the Charles Centre for Dermatology in Limerick will contribute significantly to provision of dermatological care in the Mid West,” Ms Ryan said.

And Dr Bart Ramsay, Consultant Dermatologist, UL Hospitals Group, said: “Only those who suffer with skin disease or skin cancer can really understand the impact their condition has on them. The clear feedback we are receiving from our patients is one of immense gratitude for the new Charles Centre for Dermatology. The dermatology patients appreciate its beauty, its sense of spaciousness and calmness as well as the kindness and care they are receiving. The dermatology staff are taking great joy from seeing the positive impact the unit is having on patients.

“The Dermatology patients and staff are deeply appreciative of the support of the Mid Western Hospitals Development Trust in building this remarkable department. We are grateful for the assistance of the Board of the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital Charity towards equipping and naming it as well as our senior hospital management’s support in developing it. It is simply a stunning achievement by everyone involved,” Dr Ramsay added.