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Concern raised over Portiuncula review delays

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Concerns have been expressed by a local TD over the delay of reviews into maternity and A&E services at Portiuncula Hospital.

The reports were due to be published before year-end, but this has been postponed because of the “complexity and scale of the work to be undertaken”.

Independent Deputy Denis Naughten questioned the timing of the publication, worrying that it could be earmarked for after the General Election – with the intention that a new Health Minister downgrade maternity and A&E services at the hospital.

The review of care provided to women in the maternity unit at Portiuncula was commissioned following the death of two babies during childbirth in a nine-month period in 2014, and will concentrate on a total of 18 cases.

The Saolta Hospital Group – which operates Portiuncula – said affected families will be provided with their draft sections of the report in January in advance of its completion.

A separate review of A&E services is also being conducted at all Saolta hospitals – UHG, Merlin Park, Portiuncula, Roscommon, Sligo, Mayo and Letterkenny.

Deputy Naughten said it was “very concerning” that the publication of reviews has been delayed and he feared a downgrade in services in Ballinasloe.

“The review of maternity services was sought by families and staff at Portiuncula Hospital to provide parents with the facts of what happened to their babies in the hospital and, secondly, to ensure that the supports and staffing were put in place to sustain the second busiest maternity unit in the West of Ireland.

“Just last month, I was told that we would have this report by the end of the year, but now it seems that it is to be pushed out again until ‘early 2016’.

“There has always been a fear that a report commissioned by the Saolta Hospital Group would be used to implement a previous internal review to downgrade the maternity unit at Portiuncula Hospital.

“The further delay to the completion and publication of the report adds to these concerns.

“Furthermore, the Saolta University Hospital Group is currently conducting a review of A&E services at all of its hospitals, and there is a fear that this will be used as a tool to downgrade the Emergency Department at the hospital.

“Interestingly, the review is not expected to be completed until after the upcoming General Election and the fear is that it may follow the ‘Roscommon model’ of pressurising a new Health Minister to act quickly.

“Back in 2014, the Department of Health made a submission to the Budget which included a proposal to remove the 24/7 A&E from Portiuncula Hospital.

“At that time Minister Leo Varadkar gave a guarantee that this would not happen under his watch.

“However, the current review will cause a lot of concern locally and if it were to be implemented not only will patients have further to travel to avail of emergency care but it will push our over-stretched ambulance service beyond breaking point,” said Denis Naughten.

In response to queries from the Connacht Tribune, a Saolta spokesperson issued the following statement: “[We] have advised the families concerned in the review of Maternity Services at Portiuncula that it is now likely that it will be the first quarter of 2016 before the final review is completed and have apologised for the delay in completing the review.

“This is due to the complexity and scale of the work to be undertaken, given the increase in the number of cases (18 in total) being reviewed.

“In addition to meetings with families, there have been 250 staff interviews carried out involving the 18 cases.

“As part of the process, in early January the families will be provided with the section of the draft report detailing the individual timeline of the events relating to their case to check for accuracy in advance of final completion of the review.

“In the letter to families, the Group acknowledged “that this is a particularly difficult time of year to deal with issues that no doubt cause you and your family upset” and explained that it wanted to ensure that families were kept up-to-date on the work that has been undertaken to date.

“Regular re-audits at the maternity unit have confirmed that there is no continuing patient safety concern arising from the issues identified.

“There have been no negative perinatal outcomes at Portiuncula since the enhanced monitoring measures were put in place.

“Saolta regret any distress that is being caused to the families involved and offers any services that they may require to support them in dealing with the issues that arise,” the statement reads.

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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