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Concern raised over Portiuncula review delays

Enda Cunningham



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.


Council to consider new pedestrian ‘plaza’ for Galway City

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors will be asked next month to consider a sweeping overhaul of traffic flow in the city centre as the local authority seeks to create a more pedestrian-friendly core in the wake of Covid-19.

Currently under proposal in City Hall are major alterations to traffic flow which will allow for restricted car access to Middle Street – creating additional outdoor seating space for businesses in the area struggling to cope amid social distancing requirements.

Senior Engineer at City Hall, Uinsinn Finn, said they are currently considering three different proposals to alter traffic flow on Merchants Road, Augustine Street and Flood Street to reduce the need for car access to Middle Street, while still maintaining access for residents.

“We already pedestrianised Cross Street and we will be maintaining that, and there will be a proposal for Middle Street and Augustine Street.

“Businesses in the area are very much in favour of pedestrianisation – one business has objections but the others are supportive. Another consideration is that there are residents there with parking spaces and we are trying to encourage people to live in the city centre,” said Mr Finn.

The Latin Quarter business group submitted proposals for the temporary pedestrianisation of Middle Street and Abbeygate Street Lower but Mr Finn said the proposals the Council were considering were more in the line of creating adequate space for pedestrians while still allowing residents vehicular access.

This would involve creating a circuit for car traffic moving through Merchants Road around onto Augustine Street and exiting at Flood Street.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Residents want laneway closed following pipe bomb scare

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in part of Knocknacarra are calling for the closure of a laneway and for more Community Gardaí to be put on the beat following the discovery of a ‘viable’ pipe-bomb type device in the area last weekend.

Up to 13 homes in the Cimín Mór and Manor Court estates had to be evacuated on Friday evening last when the incendiary device was discovered by Gardaí concealed in an unlit laneway, leading to the emergency services being notified.

An Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit was called to the scene and removed the device – according to local residents and councillors, the Gardaí have confirmed that the device was viable.

Gardaí have declined to comment on the detail of the case but have confirmed that the matter is being ‘actively and vigorously investigated’.

Chairman of the Cimín Mór Residents’ Association, Pat McCarthy, told the Galway City Tribune that the discovery of the viable device on the narrow laneway that links their estate to Manor Court was extremely frightening for all concerned.

“For the best part of the past 20 years, we have been seeking action to be taken on this laneway which has been used for dumping and unsociable behaviour on a repeated basis.

“But what happened last Friday evening was really the last straw for us. This could have resulted in serious injury to innocent people and what is also of concern to us is how close this was to the two schools in the area,” said Mr McCarthy.

He said that over the coming days, the residents’ association would be petitioning all residents in the three estates concerned – the other two being Manor Court and Garraí Dhónaill – for action to be taken on the laneway.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway designer’s necklace is fit for a princess!

Denise McNamara



Kate Middleton wearing the necklace designed by Aisling O'Brien

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A Galway jewellery designer is the latest to experience the ‘Kate effect’ after fans tracked down the woman who created a necklace for the Duchess of Cambridge which she has worn several times since it was gifted to her during her trip to the city last March.

Aisling O’Brien’s website crashed on Wednesday night when orders poured in for the piece from around the world. The necklace costs €109 with initials, while the earrings retail for €49.

“I’d never sold more than two things outside of Ireland before. I only had three of Kate’s necklaces in stock – and now I have orders for at least 50. I’ll have to start recruiting some elves,” laughs Aisling, who only set up her website during lockdown.

The 14-carat gold necklace and earrings set was designed by Aisling specially for Kate after examining her style – “understated, elegant, simplicity” is how the Tuam native describes it.

She was contacted about the commission by physiotherapist Thérèse Tully, who wanted to give the future queen a gift as she was using her room to change at Árus Bóthar na Trá beside Pearse Stadium when the royal couple were meeting with GAA teams.

(Photo: Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wearing the necklace)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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