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Budget hike for HSE’s community healthcare plan

Denise McNamara



This year’s allocation for the HSE’s Community Healthcare West is €483 million – an increase of almost €35m over the 2018 operational plan budget.

However, €9.25m of that budget increase relates to pay restoration under the Haddington Road and Lansdowne Road agreements.

In an assessment of the finances for primary care, social care, mental health and health and wellbeing services for Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, the HSE division admits that based on current expenditure trends, there will be a cost overrun of €4.5m for primary care alone for the year.

That is mainly due to cost pressures for medical and surgical supplies, incontinence wear, aids and appliances and costs associated with National Refugee Reception Centre in Ballaghderreen.

Last year’s primary care expenditure in 2018 exceeded the funded allocation by nearly €9m.

Community Healthcare West’s 2018 annual report and 2019 delivery plan were launched at a meeting of the Regional Health Forum.

The report shows waiting lists for all services continue at the same level or have grown.

The number of physiotherapy patients on the assessment waiting list for up to a year was 4,069 last year – up from 3,815 in 2017. Patients waiting for nearly a year for an assessment for occupational therapy was just under 2,000, while the number of psychology patients on the waiting list for nearly a year for treatment was almost 500.

Patients waiting for an appointment with the podiatry department reduced from over 1,300 to 196, while those waiting for an eye specialist increased slightly to 2,300. Over 2,000 audiology patients were waiting for up to 52 weeks, while over 1,000 were waiting a similar period after being referred for speech and language therapy.

The number of complaints logged by Galway patients was 162.

Among the projects implemented during the year were the Eolas Project, an information and support programme for families, close friends and service users with a diagnosis of psychosis or bipolar disorders.

A homeless service was established for Galway with plans to expand it this year. Staff also started a suicide prevention programme in the three counties called Eden.

Chief Officer for Community Healthcare West, Tony Canavan, said one of the key changes that occurred during 2018 was the delivery of mental health services after engagement with the service users who helped to plan and co-design the programmes.

Five primary care centres opened last year in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon area – just one in Galway, located in Tuam.

X-ray and ultrasound services will be rolled out at the Tuam health complex by September to enable easier access for those living in North and East Galway. There are plans to begin building a primary care centre in Moycullen this month with an expected completion date of June next year.

A project to house 30 individuals with complex mental health needs is due to begin in Galway City and County this month while there are plans to open a geriatric day hospital service in Galway, facilitating the reduction in Emergency Department attendances and unnecessary hospital admissions by the end of the year.


Patients moved from Merlin ‘to bolster private numbers’

Enda Cunningham



Merlin Park: Patients were moved to private hospital.

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he will ask the HSE why patients requiring rehab services were moved from Merlin Park to a private hospital, leaving the state-of-the-art facility idle.

He was asked in the Dáil last week why waiting lists were not being tackled, when capacity at the Galway Clinic and Bon Secours private hospitals is at 15-20%.

Last month, the State entered a deal to ‘take over’ the country’s private hospitals – which has come under criticism in the Dáil with claims of under-utilisation of facilities.

Galway West Deputy Catherine Connolly asked for full details of the agreement with the private hospitals – worth €115m per month nationally – and said nothing about it made sense to her.

“We have major waiting lists and our two private hospitals in Galway City are at 15% to 20% capacity. The hospital itself [UHG] – I must be wrong about this figure but it is what I have been told – was at 30% to 40% capacity as of May 15,” she said.

Department of Health figures for last week show a 39% ‘utilisation’ rate for the Bon Secours and 16% for Galway Clinic.

“The Minister has stood in the Chamber and told us he had to make such arrangements, and certainly I welcomed the narrative at the time that we were taking over the private hospitals to deal with a pandemic. However, we are not utilising them.

“Merlin Park has a state-of-the-art rehab service. It has a gym and all types of therapists but it is now lying idle because, under this deal, the Government transferred the patients from that wonderful facility to a private hospital.

“It took the therapists and patients into the private hospital to allow them to get up to 15% or 20% capacity. It sent the nurses into the public system and left the system empty at Merlin Park, and that is to mention only one service.

“None of the way this has been done makes sense to me. Surely anybody with a bit of sense would know that when the terms and the heads of agreement were signed, it should have allowed for change.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Barriers set to halt groups drinking at quayside

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Access to the green quayside areas off Wolfe Tone Bridge will be blocked from today to prevent large groups of people drinking over the Bank Holiday weekend.

And the message from Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley is – enjoy the glorious weekend of weather that’s in store, but diligently maintain the two-metre social distancing rule and don’t consume booze in public areas.

“We are not killjoys and the lovely weather is a boost to everyone’s spirits. People will enjoy the outdoors this weekend but it’s illegal to consume alcohol in public areas and we will be enforcing that bylaw.

“In this kind of weather, there will inevitably be groups of people congregating in outdoor areas – but the message is simple and crystal clear: at all times maintain the two-metre social distancing guideline,” Chief Supt Curley told the Galway City Tribune.

On Tuesday evening last, Gardaí did enforce a dispersal procedure in the Spanish Arch/Claddagh Quay area of the city, after about 200 young people had gathered there, many of them consuming alcohol. They continued to patrol the area yesterday.

A spokesperson for Galway City Council confirmed yesterday that a green area on the Claddagh Quay side of the river – where large groups of young people had gathered this week – would be closed off to the public, probably from today (Friday).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying and subscribing to our newspapers, this website would not exist. You can read the full article by buying a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune HERE.

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Westwood owners plan tourist accommodation usage

Enda Cunningham



The Westwood student accommodation complex site this week.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The owners of the new Westwood student accommodation in Newcastle are planning to use part of the complex for tourist and business traveller accommodation “in light of the current health pandemic”.

NTM ROI Seed Capital is currently building the five apartment blocks off the N59 and has sought a determination from An Bord Pleanála on whether it would need to apply for planning permission to allow “partial occupation for tourist and visitor use in the academic year from September 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021”.

Under the existing planning permission, the development “shall only be occupied as student accommodation . . . and shall not be used for any other purpose without a prior grant of planning permission for a change of use”.

However, the company has drawn up a contingency plan in the event that construction may not be completed for the coming academic year.

The plan involves allowing tourists and other ‘non-student’ users to be accommodated in the complex – An Bord Pleanála has been asked to determine whether the change would be a ‘material alteration’ of the planning approval or not.

If it is ruled a material alteration, the Board can then invite submissions from members of the public before it decides on whether to approve or reject it.

Already, local residents – who strongly objected to the entire development during the planning process – have expressed concerns about parking issues which they believe would arise if the Westwood is used for tourist use.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying and subscribing to our newspapers, this website would not exist. You can read the full article by buying a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune HERE.

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