Ardee base at heart of Irish health service plan
Described as the golden girls, a team at St Brigid's Hospital is now leading the way in transforming the public information sector with HSE. Hubert Murphy went along to meet them
A state-of-the-art information hub, set up in St Brigid's Hospital in Ardee, has been described as 'one of the jewels in the crown of the Irish health service' by the man that should know - the Director General of the HSE, Tony O'Brien.
Speaking at the launch of HSELive service in Ardee, Mr O'Brien was full of praise for the professional 17-strong team at the centre that is set to expand even more in the years ahead.
HSELive is the new multi-platform public information and signposting service from the HSE offering a customer-focused and responsive service letting people know where to go and what to do in order to get the services they need for themselves and for their families.
For questions about health services, your entitlements, or how to access public health and social care services in your area, HSELive is the place to contact.
It is manned by the Ardee team and is a worldwide service, as Team Leader Geraldine Charman revealed.
'We get calls, emails and tweets from all over Ireland and the world,' she stated.
Geraldine has been based in St Brigid's for 15 years and started the information service for the then North Eastern Health Board in 2003 and after a year got a clerical assistant.
But the idea caught on and gradually expanded, with last week's launch the icing on the cake - for the moment.
Geraldine believes it can grow further and since it was piloted last November, they've had 28,000 queries on LiveChat, customers reporting a 90% satisfaction rating.
'We get up to 450 queries each day across all channels, landline, mobiles, emails, LiveChat, dealing with many issues,' she states.
The HSELive team is available 6 days a week and are well versed in navigating the health service, explaining about entitlements and how best to access services and supports locally.
The most common queries received by HSELive concern medical cards, the European Health Insurance Card, drug payment schemes, long term illness schemes, dental and optical services, mental health services and queries about births, deaths and marriages.
What Geraldine firmly believes is that they don't necessarily know all the answers, but they can put people on the right path.
She admits many ring when they've exhausted other avenues to try and source information and can be upset.
'I say to the team, put yourselves in their shoes and how would you feel. We are the voice at the end of the phone or computer that needs to provide reassurance,' she stated.
'You do have to have a passion for this job and that's why we have a skilled team. There is no such thing as that's not my job. We try and get back to people as soon as possible if we can't answer their query.'
Geraldine says they can get calls from Sydney to India from Irish people thinking about coming home and wondering what their entitlements are.
Others want to discuss the 'Fair Deal' scheme and they are there to assist.
Paul Connors from the HSE said he first came across 'the girls in Ardee' in 2010 when the swine flu was big news.
'No matter what we wanted, we got, be it at 10pm at night or 1am in the morning. Nothing was a problem and they sought nothing in return,' he stated.
HSE DG Tony O'Brien said the Ardee site was now 'at the cutting edge of what health services are doing throughout Europe' and the team would make people feel 'well served' by the health service.
Kirsten Connolly, Deputy Director of Communications and Lead on the HSELive Transformation Project said that the 'customer service is gold' in Ardee.
'We developed HSELive in response to an identified public need for better information about where to go and what to do when it comes to accessing health services. We want to ensure that people know where to go and what to do in order to get the support they need for themselves and for their families. The HSELive team has a wealth of knowledge and are ready to be your guides to navigating the health service on the phone or online, whichever works best for you,' she added.
Get in touch with HSELive 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 10am-5pm Saturdays: Telephone - From a landline Callsave 1850 24 1850 or from a mobile call 041 6850300 . LiveChat - Visit HSE.ie and click on the chat icon . Twitter - Tweet @HSELive and they'll get back to you or just join the conversation. Email - Send query to firstname.lastname@example.org and they'll email you back.