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Concern raised over Portiuncula review delays



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.


Galway City Council Chief asked to intervene after Kirwan junction ‘near misses’



From the Galway City Tribune – Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, has been urged to intervene and instigate a review of the controversial changeover of Kirwan roundabout to a traffic light junction.

A relative of the Collins’ family, who operate a B&B on Headford Road, has pleaded with Mr McGrath to act to make it safe to enter and exit this house.

Joseph Murphy, from County Galway but living in England, a relative of the owners of the B&B located on the N84 side of the Headford Road, has warned of the potential for a serious collision at that junction.  He wrote to Mr McGrath, and copied all city councillors including Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins (FG), seeking a review of the junction and in particular access to the B&B. Mr Murphy said he has been driving for forty years but this junction was “one of the most difficult and complicated traffic light junctions I have ever experienced”.

The CCTV shows a van stopping in the junction to give way to pedestrians before entering the B&B.

He said he wrote the letter because he nearly had a serious accident, due to no fault of his, when leaving the residence.

An amber traffic lights system is in place at the house, since the junction changeover last year, which is supposed to help motorists exit onto the Headford Road from the B&B.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

He said the lights are complicated and it was unreasonable and unfair on his family and any guests staying at their B&B who may be endangered trying to enter or exit the driveway.

Videos of ‘near misses’ recorded on CCTV footage, and supplied to Councillor Mike Crowe (FF), have been seen by the Galway City Tribune.

They give a flavour of how dangerous it is to exit the residence on an amber light; and indicate an apparent lack of understanding of the system on the part of other motorists.

Cllr Crowe and other elected members raised this safety issue at a Council meeting last week during a discussion on the City Development Plan. It was decided to rezone some land adjacent to Sandyvale Lawn, which would allow for a new entrance to the house to be constructed, although there is no timeframe.

Mr Murphy, in his email to officials and councillors said it was an “extremely busy junction”.

“I do not believe that enough planning or consideration was taken when the traffic lights were installed, especially those that were installed directly in front of my sister’s house.

“My relatives in Galway should not have to worry every time they leave their house nor should anyone coming from the Menlo direction have to worry about getting blocked in by other vehicles when entering my sister’s house,” he said.

Mr Murphy added: “I would urge the Galway City Council to carry out an immediate review to make this busy junction safe before somebody gets hurt in a serious accident.”

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Plan for former pub in Galway to house Ukrainian refugees



From the Galway City Tribune – The former Lantern Bar in Ballybane has been proposed to accommodate Ukrainians seeking refuge in Galway.

The Galway City Tribune has learned that works are underway on the building to advance the plans.

The Council confirmed that they had been briefed on the proposal but refused to be drawn on the details.

“Galway City Council is aware of a proposal to use the Lantern Bar at Ballybane Shopping Centre for refugees,” said a spokesperson.

“The coordination of the development of accommodation facilities such as this is the responsibility of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

The local authority spokesperson said they did not have information on the number of people who would be accommodated, nor did they know when the facility might be open.

The Lantern Bar has not operated as a pub for some time, although its licence was renewed on appeal at Galway Circuit Court in February 2020 when the court was told that it was intended to sell the premises.

The bar, which had been the location of a series of public order incidents in 2019, had previously had its licence revoked following several objections from residents.

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City centre residents’ fears over new late-night opening hours



From the Galway City Tribune – Residents in one of the city centre’s oldest residential areas fear their lives will be turned upside-down by proposed later opening hours for pubs and nightclubs.

Chairperson of the Bowling Green Residents’ Association, Jackie Uí Chionna, told a public meeting of the City’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) that as city centre residents, anti-social behaviour was part of their daily lives.

However, they expected the situation to worsen if Government proceeded with proposals to extend nightclub opening hours to 6.30am.

“Our concern at our recent AGM was the longer pub opening hours – it will result in an increase in [anti-social behaviour],” said Ms Uí Chionna.

She said it was their belief that this policy went against the right of city centre residents to “exist and live as a community” in the middle of town.

“We oppose increasing opening hours. We won’t have any sleep – we have minimal as it is. And we won’t feel safe to walk on the streets.

“It is regrettable that there has been so little consultation with gardaí and residents,” said Ms Uí Chionna.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said Gardaí were waiting to see what happened with the legislation for later opening hours.

“On one hand, not having 5,000 or 10,000 people coming out at the one time will be a benefit but the question is if they won’t [come out at one time]. And will businesses buy into it?” questioned the Chief Supt.

Meanwhile, another Bowling Green resident and former city councillor, Nuala Nolan, raised concerns about the new model of policing and said rostering, which had gardaí working three days on and four days off was making it difficult to follow up on matters with community gardaí.

“You can’t get that person when they’re off for another four days – the continuity is gone,” said Ms Nolan.

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