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New GHA service focuses on essential medical care, straight to your doorstep

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

The GHA on Tuesday launched a Mobile Health Unit that will use a specially equipped vehicle to deliver essential medical services directly to residents throughout Gibraltar.

The service aims to reduce barriers to healthcare and waiting times and will be most beneficial to elderly patients who may have difficulty accessing medical facilities for basic check-ups and follow-up support.

The flexibility of the Mobile Health Unit is a key aspect of its operation.

It will be tailored to meet the specific needs of each area it visits.

For instance, if an estate has a significant elderly population, the services provided will be adjusted to cater to the unique healthcare requirements of the elderly, including comprehensive health checks and the management of long-term conditions.

Similarly, areas with a higher concentration of children will receive specialised attention to ensure their well-being.

The unit, which will operate Monday to Friday from 9am to 3.30pm, has been funded by the Peter J Isola Foundation and the service will be delivered using a repurposed ambulance.

The GHA’s Director General, Professor Patrick Geoghegan, and Director of Nursing Sandie Garcia, were joined by members of the Isola family and Suzanne Romero, clinical nurse manager for Primary Care Nursing Services, as they announced the new service outside St Bernard’s Hospital on Tuesday.

“We still have about 47% of people coming to Primary Care and down to see our A&E doctors who do not need to come down,” said Prof Geoghegan.

“They feel a bit giddy or feel a bit worried about something [but] they don't need to come down to have a blood pressure check.”

“So this mobile unit this is going to go around Gibraltar and we're working out a plan of places where it will be and we will publicise it.”

“So if it's going to an area where we've a high elderly population, then we will make sure that the services we are providing reflects the needs of that population so we can do some health checks. If they have got long term conditions, we can check it.”

“I'm hoping that people will start using this as their mobile health centre rather than coming downtown here.”

“And maybe then we can kind of prevent people coming down and using valuable GP time in our Primary Care Centre that don't need to be seen or going to the A&E department.”

The mobile unit will operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

The service will initially be provided for service users aged 70 and above but it is envisaged that eventually it will be opened up to all age groups.

Ms Romero said her team were very excited about the new unit.

“We have not seen anything like this before in the GHA and this will give us the opportunity to reach out to those people the best way we can, especially the elderly out in our community,” she said.

“To be able to address anything that they may be concerned about.”

“You have elderly patients that maybe cannot access primary care for various reasons because of the mobility issues or because they live alone.”

“They don't have anybody to bring them down. And this will give them the opportunity to come see us so we can assess them and make sure that they're okay.”

Concerned too about young men being workaholics and not going to the doctor despite being under a lot of stress, she added: “Stress is a killer”.

“Lots of young people nowadays are suffering from high blood pressure, and that is a cardiovascular disease.”

“My aim is to reach out to them, make sure that they're looking at themselves, make sure that if do have high blood pressure that they get treated and given options and informed decisions on how to take care of themselves so that they can have a better quality of life.”

The Peter J Isola Foundation's involvement with the GHA dates back the Covid-19 pandemic when they initially focused on procuring ventilators.

The foundation adjusted its approach based on the recommendations of Dr Mark Garcia, the GHA’s Executive Medical Director and nephew of the family.

Understanding the significance of diagnostic equipment for early detection and intervention, the foundation successfully acquired state-of-the-art diagnostic tools.

Not stopping at Covid-19 relief, the foundation's fundraising efforts generated over £100,000 for Cancer Relief during the pandemic.

Now it has invested in a mobile health unit, a day after presenting a new Response Vehicle it also donated to the GHA.

“We are donating the refit of this old ambulance to be able to travel around the estates so people can visit the unit rather than come to the hospital,” said Peter Isola, trustee of the foundation carrying his father’s name.

“It seems, in particular, men like me will not come to the hospital for checkups and things, but if a van goes around to the estates, they are hoping that people are more willing to come forward, have a checkup and catch diseases early.”

When asked why his family, via the foundation, wants to help the GHA in such a manner, Mr Isola said: “I think that my family has done well out of Gibraltar and we want to give back to Gibraltar.”

“The Peter J Isola Foundation is in honour of my father, for the work he had done in Gibraltar, and also my mother, who served in the Red Cross for over 50 years.”

“It was things that were very much close to their heart and we want to honour their memory and continue developing and giving more to the community,” he added.

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