A cross-border cardiology service has been credited with saving the lives of 27 patients from Co Donegal in its first nine months.
The agreement that enables heart attack victims living in the north west to access a specialist procedure at Altnagelvin hospital in Londonderry started in May last year.
The first of its kind cardiology deal between health authorities on both sides of the border envisages around 50 to 60 patients from Co Donegal access life-saving care in Derry.
The accord covers people living within 90 minutes of Altnagelvin, ensuring they do need to be transported longer distances to other hospitals in the Irish Republic, such as in Galway.
Once patients undergo the heart procedure in Derry they are transferred to Letterkenny or Sligo hospitals.
The agreement was struck by the Western Health & Social Care Trust (WHSCT) in Northern Ireland and the Saolta University Health Care Group in the Republic.
A similar agreement enables patients in Donegal to undergo radiotherapy treatment in Derry.
Donie Cronin from Donegal was one of those patients who received cardiac care in Altnagelvin.
“I am very grateful for this life saving patient service and to all involved in my care,” he said.
“Thankfully I am doing really well now”.
Stormont Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I would like to congratulate the team at the Western Trust and Saolta for their work in developing this fantastic service.
“This clearly demonstrates the life-saving benefit of all-Ireland approaches to healthcare in meeting patients’ needs and improving access to vital services.”
Dr Albert McNeill, clinical lead for WHSCT, said: “Receiving this treatment as soon as possible improves patient survival and reduces the long term heart damage caused by heart attacks.
“The clinical service is a good example of how health care organisations and professionals across jurisdictions can work together for the benefit of patients.”
Dr Jim Crowley, clinical lead for Saolta, said “The cross-border cardiology service between Saolta and the Western Health and Social Care Trust is working extremely well.
“Patients from County Donegal who suffer a heart attack receive emergency potentially life-saving coronary intervention treatment at Altnagelvin Hospital.”