Following a series of delays and missed deadlines going back to 2012, the first patients are being admitted to the newly opened Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at Cork University Hospital this week.
The unit consists of a customised four-bed room with continuous nursing supervision and 24/7 video-EEG monitoring to record seizures and correlate them with the patient's EEG (brainwaves) over a number of days.
A HSE statement has confirmed that nursing and medical staff working in the EMU will provide patients with the following services:
- recording and analysing epileptic seizures in a safe environment,
- identifying patients who may be suitable for epilepsy surgery;
- definitively diagnosing or excluding epilepsy in patients with seizure-like events;
- observing patients admitted acutely to hospital with seizures in a safe environment; and
- educating and advising people with epilepsy.
The statement added that the Unit opens with the full complement of five staff nurses trained in the management of epilepsy patients in addition to a newly-appointed advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) with specialist training in epilepsy. It states that patients referred from the southern region (Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Waterford) will now be able to attend for monitoring, assessment and treatment.
Epilepsy Ireland, working with a number of Cork-based families, medical professionals and elected representatives has lobbied for the past two years to have the unit opened. The intervening period has resulted in growing waiting lists for diagnosis and treatment and in some cases referrals abroad for essential pre-surgical monitoring.
Welcoming the opening of the unit, Mike Glynn, Epilepsy Ireland CEO said that "Monitoring is an essential element of any 21st century epilepsy service for the people who are undergoing evaluation for potentially life-changing epilepsy surgery and for patients where there is doubt about the underlying diagnosis of epilepsy. We are delighted that the Unit is finally operational on a full-time basis and that people with epilepsy in the south of the country can begin to benefit from the technology and expertise available within the hospital".
Dr Daniel Costello, Consultant Neurologist and clinical lead for the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at CUH said, "The Epilepsy Monitoring Unit will provide numerous benefits to people with epilepsy, particularly those with severe epilepsy. The Epilepsy Monitoring Unit adds to a number of new services available through CUH for people with epilepsy including specialist nursing care and telephone access, rapid access seizure clinics, complex epilepsy clinics, community outreach clinics for people in residential care and an epilepsy surgery pathway with ties to Beaumont Hospital."
David Stanton, Fine Gael TD for Cork East said "This new Epilepsy Unit has been in development for some time and having worked on this project over the past year, I am very pleased to see the doors finally open. The EMU will significantly enhance the services that the hospital can offer to people with epilepsy in the region. This is a great development for Cork University Hospital. I would like to commend all those involved in campaigning for the unit."
Epilepsy Ireland would like to thank all the individuals and families who have supported the EMU campaign and we extend our thanks also to the members of the media, particularly at the Irish Examiner and the Evening Echo for highlighting the need for the service consistently over the past two years.