The meeting was attended by over 20 members and special guests from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT): Ms Wendy Magowan, Director of Operations, and Ms Diane Spence, Interim Director for Community Care. The Honorary Secretary, Dr John Flynn, gave a report updating the present care given by each Department working on the Robinson Hospital site. All Departments were glad to return to almost normal operations after the prolonged period of the Coronavirus Pandemic; not all patient contacts are face to face and some continued to be by telephone or video consultation.
The Robinson Hospital General Ward had been designated a COVID positive only rehabilitation unit early in the Pandemic and in 2021 had cared for 189 Covid positive patients mainly transferred from acute hospitals. 43% of patients were discharged home, 33% to nursing homes and 15% were transferred back to acute hospital. Director of Operations NHSCT, Ms Wendy Magowan, paid tribute to the outstanding care and commitment given by all the ward staff during the difficult and challenging period of the Pandemic restrictions.
A major project with capital costs initially of about £2.2m is at an advanced planning stage in partnership between the NHSCT and the Robinson Hospital Trust Board. Capital costs are provided from Robinson Hospital Trust Endowment Funds. Refurbishment of the existing wards will provide a 16 bedded unit with ensuite facilities, upgraded pharmacy, staff administration areas, day care and family support accommodation. General Ward Sister Joanne Montgomery will be retiring after many years of dedicated and efficient service.
The Physiotherapy department works closely with Occupational Therapy and the full multidisciplinary team to provide quality care to inpatients and outpatients at the Robinson Hospital. Hydrotherapy has reopened with safety guidelines. Most patient contacts are now direct but telephone reviews are still used. Team Coordinator, Catherine Skeet, reported that the Hospital Diversion Nursing Team had carried out 1069 outpatient treatments in the Robinson Hospital clinic and with extra funding and an extra nurse, had taken over the Healthcare at Home contract to provide non-chemotherapy treatments in hospital or at home.
The Child Development Centre, led by Consultant Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Price, has a team of five other Paediatricians, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Dietitian, Autism Service and clerical staff. Most appointments are now direct but telephone and remote video technology are still used for patient review and staff training.
Health Minister Robin Swann MLA visited the Robinson Hospital in February 2022 and opened three new Chatty Benches where individuals can sit, chat and connect with other people, part of a NHSCT initiative to reduce loneliness and support positive mental health and wellbeing. The Health Minister also dedicated a plaque and planted an Acer tree in memory of the highly esteemed late Dr John E Johnston, General Practitioner, who
provided many years of selfless care to many patients and their families at the Robinson Hospital and wider Ballymoney community.
CRUSE Bereavement CarenService has moved to a different base but continues to have close links with the Robinson Hospital. The Hub still has restrictions to groups of 8 or less but continues to provide cancer care support as well as being used for small group meetings by several voluntary groups including St John Ambulance Ballymoney for training.
The Podiatry clinic is close to returning to full service but still uses telephone or photo review for less serious cases. Pressures of both client and staff illnesses with COVID have reduced clinics but the service still targets its 13 week waiting time. The two Practices in the Health Centre adapted their health care delivery during the Pandemic to maintain patient and staff safety. Telephone triage continues but many direct contact patient clinics have restarted. As well as the growing workloads of general patient care and administration, the practice teams have provided COVID vaccination clinics in the Joey Dunlop Centre and at the Health Centre, medical care at the local COVID Primary Care centre in Coleraine and looking after the General Ward patients in the Robinson Hospital.
The Family Practice now operates a Minor Surgery service open to referrals from other practices in the area which reduces referrals for Minor Surgery to the District Hospitals. As a recognised Training Practice, the Family Practice will welcome a training GP Registrar next year. GP Dr Roger Brown has moved from the practice and has been replaced by Dr Lloyd Patterson. Receptionist Lorraine Watson has retired after 27 years of service. The Drs Fannin, Hutchinson and Boyd Practice now has a complete team with additions of Physiotherapists Dawn Aitken and Shauna Cloughley, Pharmacist Hannah Forbes, Social Worker Lyndsey Peden, and newly appointed Counsellor Gillian Bradley. Receptionist Elizabeth Morrison has retired after 20 years of valuable service.
The Robinson Outdoor Occupational Training Service (ROOTS), based at the polytunnel area to the rear of the Robinson Hospital, is led by Valerie Craig and two other fulltime staff. They supervise 14 adults with learning difficulties who undertake several projects: maintaining the grounds at the Robinson Hospital, Roddens and Millbrooke sites; propagating and selling plants at the polytunnel daily between 10am and 3pm to the general public; making Christmas wreaths; dismantling Zimmer frames and other equipment for the NHSCT; and organising 7,500 envelopes to support the Schools Community Dental Service.
The Community Mental Health Team has maintained direct patient care to their highest risk clients, ensuring continuation of health monitoring, medications administration and crisis interventions. This service cares for about 1000 clients and notes much higher referrals to their service during and since the Pandemic restrictions caused by significantly higher levels of isolation, stress and anxiety for many individuals and families. Group therapy sessions have not returned to normal due to Covid safety restrictions.
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health looks after children and young people until 18 years of age. The Team includes Drs, Nurses, Social Workers, Clinical Psychologists, Occupational and Family Therapists. Along with the client and their family, this team assesses the individual and plans the most appropriate care pathway. Programmes deal with early and preventative interventions, crisis response and has access to an intensive inpatient treatment unit in Belfast. Specialist services include the Eating Disorder Team and a Drug and Alcohol Team.
On behalf of the Robinson Hospital Board of Trustees, Dr Flynn passed on their appreciation and thanks to all the departments working from the Robinson Hospital site for their resilience and committed care to so many patients and their families during the past difficult Covid restricted years. NHSCT officers Ms Wendy Magowan and Ms Diane Spence added their thanks to all staff working at the Robinson Hospital for their
outstanding care, which was highly valued and respected by the NHSCT. Honorary Treasurer Henry Algeo, provided a financial report of the Robinson Hospital Trust’s finances at the end of 2021. Despite a difficult economic background, he reported that the assets had increased in value over the year by £600,000 to £6.4million. Gross income had risen by £10,000 to £180,000. Accumulated funds held by the NHSCT rose to £1.5million. An additional £564,000 was held at the year end by the Robinson Board ready to transfer to the NHSCT when the redevelopment of the Robinson Hospital project starts. Administrative expenses were
reported to be £7,800, approximately 4% of gross income.
In conclusion, Mr Algeo commented on the recent volatility in Stock Markets, and maintained that whilst the Robinson Hospital Trust’s asset values may fluctuate, the income derived from them is quite secure and he felt confident for the future. The business of the meeting concluded with election of Office Bearers and Members of the Robinson Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees. The Chairman and President, David Robinson, reported that past Honorary Treasurer and Board Member, Mr Connor Taggart, was retiring from the Board of Trustees after 37 years of service including 14 years as Honorary Treasurer, which he carried out with dedication and careful stewardship. In appreciation of Connor’s much valued service, his fellow Board Members had unanimously appointed him to become an Honorary Life Member, an honour only awarded in the past to two other distinguished recipients: Dr W Belford and Mr Bertie Thompson.