Geriatrics and Gerontology in Cork

The Cork Contribution

A Mini History of "The Cork Contribution" to the Specialty of Geriatric Medicine and Care of Older People in Ireland

Written by Dr. Diarmuid O'Shea, President of the Irish Gerontological Society, and Prof. Denis O'Mahony, Consultant Geriatrician at Cork University Hospital. As published in the programme of the 67th Annual and Scientific Meeting of the Irish Gerontological Society in Cork (September 2019).

As we co-host the IGS Annual and Scientific Meeting this year in Cork, it is important to acknowledge the contribution that those in and from Cork have made to the development of geriatric medicine as a specialty in Ireland.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the first specialist Department of Geriatric Medicine in Cork City. The creation of the new specialist service in St. Finbarr’s Hospital (SFH) in 1969 was largely the work of the late Dr Michael Hyland after he took up his appointment as consultant physician in Geriatric Medicine following completion of senior registrar training in England.

Dr. Hyland worked single-handedly for the next 10 years during which time he oversaw the establishment of the essential components of a modern, multidisciplinary, specialist service, the first of its kind in Ireland outside of Dublin.

In 1979, shortly after the opening of the new Cork Regional Hospital, Dr. (later Professor) Cillian Twomey joined Dr. Hyland as consultant in Geriatric Medicine. Over the next 20 years, they jointly ran and further developed the department providing a comprehensive service between Cork Regional Hospital (now Cork University Hospital, CUH) and SFH.

Dr. Denis O’Mahony joined the CUH/SFH consultant staff in 1999 to replace Dr. Hyland on his retirement and Dr. Mike O’Connor took up a new consultant post in the department in 2001.

In 2002, a new Geriatric Medicine service was established at Mercy University Hospital (MUH) following the appointment of Dr. Colm Henry as the first consultant in Geriatric Medicine in MUH. Dr. Henry’s appointment marked the establishment of the Cork City-wide Department of Geriatric Medicine which has grown and developed since then.

Today there are 16 consultant physicians in the Cork City-wide Department of Geriatric Medicine, including 4 UCC academic post holders. The consultant staff provide a comprehensive acute in-patient service for older people based on the original comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment and treatment model developed by Dr. Hyland.

The specialist service incorporates acute care and rehabilitation of patients aged over 65; acute stroke unit care; stroke rehabilitation; ambulatory assessment and treatment; acute medical assessment; as well as out-patient subspecialty clinics in dementia, falls and movement disorders.

The service is supported by 5 advanced nurse practitioners and 4 clinical nurse specialists, as well as a large team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, social workers, discharge coordinators and secretarial staff working between CUH, MUH and SFH.

Orthogeriatric rehabilitation on the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital site is now also added as a further element of subspecialty care within the Cork City-wide Department’s remit.

The staff of the Cork City-wide Department of Geriatric Medicine wish to thank the IGS for its continuing support, since 1969, in terms of education and research. We look forward to the next 50 years of ongoing collaboration and shared further development towards improving the provision of specialist healthcare for older people locally and nationally.

We will continue also to work energetically for the development of education, training and research in Geriatric Medicine for undergraduate and postgraduate students of all healthcare disciplines to the highest and internationally recognized standards.

Fittingly this year’s recipient of the IGS President’s Medal is Professor Bernard Walsh, Consultant Geriatrician in St. James’s Hospital Dublin. Prof. Walsh, himself a UCC graduate, began his career as a geriatrician with Dr. Hyland in Cork.  We congratulate him, his wife Aileen, family, colleagues and friends who joined us in acknowledging the huge contribution he has made over his career to Medicine, Geriatrics and Care of Older People across the island of Ireland.

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A limited edition poster to celebrate 50 years of Geratric Medicine in Cork City and County was launched at the IGS 2019 Annual & Scientific Meeting.  You can view and download a copy of the poster at the link below.