Two pharmacists in Mayo University Hospital have been named the national winners of a competition seeking innovative ideas from HSE staff.

Marie Ronan and Rose Cafferkey proposed the idea for a smart tool capable of real-time auditing, monitoring and surveillance of antibiotics for the 2020 Spark Ignite Innovation competition.

The competition is the only innovation challenge of its kind open for suggestions from the HSE’s nationwide staff of more than 115,000 employees.

Launched in February, the competition concluded on 15 July with Health Innovation Hub Ireland, the Office of the Nursing and Midwifery Services Director, and National Doctors Training and Planning naming the winners from more than 150 applications.

The winning duo received a €3,000 prize in the regional final, topped up with a further €3,000 for their national final success.

“Rose and I are delighted and proud to win this prestigious award for the Antimicrobial Stewardship Team and Pharmacy Department in Mayo University Hospital,” said Ronan. “Being shortlisted for the HIHI Spark Ignite Award was an honour, especially with the high calibre of entrants.”
Ronan and Cafferkey believe their award-winning idea could have a significant impact on the global threat of antimicrobial resistance both nationally and internationally.

“Antimicrobial resistance affects us all and has the potential to have a devastating impact on all our lives,” said Ronan.

According to the World Health Organization, antimicrobial resistance is present in every country around the world and increasing resistance to treatment has begun to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria.

HSE CEO Paul Reid congratulated the winners and commended the organisers on hosting the contest under difficult circumstances.

“It is particularly encouraging to see the number of participants that continued to develop their ideas during a pandemic and is another testament to the dedication shown by all staff within the HSE,” he said.

A total of 36 finalists were selected for the Spark Ignite Innovation competition. Each of them participated in an innovation workshop and received mentorship from Health Innovation Hub Ireland ahead of the regional and national pitch battles.

“The training workshops provided by Health Innovation Hub Ireland were an excellent learning experience and will benefit us long into our careers,” said Ronan.

To secure their national victory, Ronan and Cafferkey participated in two rounds of pitching to a panel of judges, which were conducted virtually under Covid-19 restrictions.

They and all other category winners from the competition will continue to receive guidance from Health Innovation Hub Ireland to further develop their ideas. They will also be able to avail of the organisation’s innovation pathway for start-ups seeking pilot or validation studies for commercialisation.

“To those who went on to compete in the regional and national finals, you should be proud of your achievements and I look forward to seeing the realisation of your ideas in the health services,” added Reid.

Elaine Burke

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