There are serious concerns that people who are sick and require hospitalisation may be avoiding hospital Emergency Departments due to Covid-19 anxiety – risking long-term but potentially preventable damage to their health.
That’s according to Saolta Hospital Group Clinical Director for Medicine, Dr Ramona McLoughlin, who told the Connacht Tribune that attendance to the ED at University Hospital Galway had dropped significantly in recent weeks.
“Our big worry is that people are not going to ED or to their GP because of coronavirus,” she explained.
Dr McLoughlin said that conditions such as MI (myocardial infarction or heart attack), stroke or kidney infection were not any less likely to occur now, in the midst of this global pandemic, than they were beforehand.
“This pandemic does not prevent any other diseases,” she stressed, adding that EDs nationwide had seen similar decreases in the number of people attending with common conditions that would still be occurring, despite the lockdown.
All necessary precautions had been taken at UHG to ensure that patients presenting to the ED with any symptoms indicating the presence of Covid-19 were kept separate from those with other illnesses, said Dr McLoughlin.
“We have put in pathways at the entrance to the ED – if you have [flu-like] symptoms, you go down one pathway; if you have a suspected MI, stroke or appendicitis, you go down a separate pathway,” she continued.
Daily presentations to the ED at UHG – the main acute hospital in the region – have been around 50 people for day; the norm was about 180 to 250 people per day, said Dr McLoughlin.
As talk turns to how the country will return to some semblance of normality in coming weeks, Dr McLoughlin said people had to prepare for a return to what would be a new normal – and this was particularly relevant for medicine.
“We have been really lucky in Ireland with how social distancing has helped.
“The death rate in Ireland is about half that in the UK, but the big worry is how we are going to get back to life with Covid-19 – it’s not going to be normal life,” she said.
While there were hopes that a vaccine will be available, it was at least 12 months away – a timeframe Dr McLoughlin called optimistic – and there was still a lot unknown about achieving immunity to this novel virus.
Other areas of healthcare have been impacted, with many elective surgeries cancelled; many clinics have been moved to virtual fora due to concerns over keeping people in waiting rooms; while the reluctance to attend GP surgeries or ED could result in delayed diagnosis, she said.
“With cancer, there is a whole range of concerns. If a patient doesn’t present with symptoms, that could delay diagnosis.
“Because we were preparing for a pandemic surge, we did reduce elective activity to free up space so that did reduce clinic activity and elective procedures. That could well have an impact on diagnosis.
“We can open back up those activities and utilise the Galway Clinic and Bon Secours so that procedures can be operated in a non-Covid hospital, as far as you can say that about anywhere,” she said.
For patients having chemotherapy for cancer, provision had been made to administer treatment in clinic rooms at UHG which provided better protection, given that they were immunosuppressed.
People presenting to the ED in psychiatric emergencies were also being taken straight to the new Adult Acute Mental Health Unit, said Dr McLoughlin.
She advised that people exercise their own judgement and to seek medical assistance when they needed it or, “they may end up with more serious difficulties”.
Eyrecourt tune makes it to Hollywood in Jig time
A tune composed to celebrate the twinning of Eyrecourt in south-east Galway with Gouesnach in France is to feature in a new film.
Written by Niall Crehan, ‘The Eyrecourt Jig’ made quite a splash when it was released in 2013 and is still popular in music sessions up and down the country.
Niall had been commissioned to write the tune for the 20th anniversary of the twinning of the two villages, Eyrecourt and Gouesnach.
So, when he had a small part as a fiddler in a TV film called Royal Rendevouz, he started playing the jig.
The producers were so impressed, they added it to the movie soundtrack and it will appear in the credits.
Niall is a member of a celebrated traditional Irish musical dynasty hailing originally from County Clare.
He is the youngest son of whistle and concertina player Vincent Crehan and nephew of renowned fiddler Junior Crehan.
Niall and his brother Kieran ran the Dublin shop Crehan Musical instruments until his early retirement.
Now living in Kildare, Niall is a cousin of publican Mick Crehan, who runs the renowned folk pub in the west end of Galway, The Crane.
Niall and the large army of musicians in the extended family are regular guests.
His brother Dermot got music playing parts on films such as the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and he managed to get Niall onto the likes of Downton Abbey.
This latest TV project is the latest foray into the world of film, explains his son Brian.
The story centres on an American chef who is invited to an Irish manor to cook a feast in order to convince the matriarch not to sell the home.
It premieres on Sunday, February 26 at 9pm on the E! Network starring Isabella Gomez, Ruairi O’Connor and Ronan Raftery.
‘No show’ TDs criticised at County Galway policing committee meeting
A county councillor has launched a stinging criticism of Oireachtas members for their repeated failure to attend County Galway Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meetings.
At a meeting of the JPC on Monday, Cllr Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher (photographed) said he believed it was time the three TDs on the committee decided if they wanted to remain, or give their place up to someone who would make use of it.
“I am asking the Council to write out to our Oireachtas members and ask them do they want to be on this JPC or not, and if not, let someone else be on it,” blasted the Fine Gael councillor.
This followed repeated non-appearances from TDs representing the Oireachtas on the committee – the three representatives are Deputy Noel Grealish (Ind), Deputy Anne Rabbitte (FF) and Deputy Catherine Connolly (Ind).
Cllr Maher said the JPC, which sits around five times per year, was deliberately held on a Mondays to facilitate Oireachtas members who were in the Dáil later in the week. He said there were issues being raised regularly that required raising at a national level and it was incumbent on national representatives to bring those matters back to Dublin.
One such issue was the use of CCTV in the pursuit of illegal dumpers and travelling crime gangs, said Cllr Maher who is Cathaoirleach of the County Council.
“I would like our members of the Oireachtas to be taking the message back on CCTV,” he added, as representatives locally were getting no further as a result of data protection laws.
None of the three Oireachtas members were present for this week’s meeting. Chair of the JPC, Cllr Jim Cuddy, confirmed he had received an apology from Deputy Catherine Connolly.
New Chief Executive for Galway County Council
The new Chief Executive of Galway County Council is set to be unveiled in the coming weeks.
Liam Conneally, who is Director of Services for Economic Development at Clare County Council, is understood to be the preferred candidate following an interview process and has been offered the post.
His appointment will have to be ratified by councillors at an upcoming meeting of Galway County Council.
He will replace Jim Cullen, who was Acting CE for a number of years.
The last permanent CE of the local authority was also a Clare native, Martina Moloney who retired in 2014.
Since then, Kevin Kelly initially and then Jim Cullen have been acting in the roles.
According to his LinkedIn page, Liam Conneally was a senior planner at Limerick City and County Councils for almost three years before taking up the Director of Services role in Clare in 2016.
He was educated at University of Limerick and Queen’s University Belfast.
A native of Ennistymon, he is steeped in the GAA.
“He’s done a very good job in Clare; he’s very dynamic and forward-looking, he will be a good choice for Galway County Council,” said a source familiar with Mr Conneally, and the interview process.
Government completed a review in 2021 about whether it was going to appoint someone permanently into the CE role, which was filled on a temporary/acting basis for almost nine years.
It’s understood that officials in Dublin had delayed filling the role as they wanted to push for an amalgamation of both Councils.
The amalgamation, however, was rejected by local politicians, and has since been put on the back burner.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, is due to retire this year. It’s understood his deputy CE, Patricia Philbin will take the role in an acting capacity until an interview process is completed.