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Connemara patients waiting up to four hours for ambulance

Denise McNamara

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A Clifden GP has hit out at the slow response times of ambulances which he insists are endangering the lives of seriously ill patients across Connemara.

In a letter submitted by the Leenane and Maam Ambulance Steering Group to Oireachtas members to campaign for an improved service, Dr John Casey Junior outlined cases involving his patients who were forced to wait hours for an ambulance.

In one incident, a 50-year-old woman visiting the area presented with severe acute abdominal pain, was extremely unstable and in a lot of pain. It took three hours for an ambulance to arrive, during which time the patient had to be given morphine intravenously. She then had to face into a journey of up to 90 minutes to reach University Hospital Galway (UHG).

Another man at Clifden Community School was suffering epileptic fits every 15 minutes. His ambulance did not arrive for at least two-and-a-half hours.

“Amazingly this gentleman survived this episode, but given the fact of his presenting condition there is no doubt in my mind that his survival was a minor miracle.”

A patient in 2011 who presented with sudden stroke was not as lucky.

“By the time he made it into Galway, the four-hour window had passed and unfortunately it was too late to receive the clot busting drug that would have potentially saved him from severe disability. He is now unfortunately residing in a nursing home.”

Dr Casey wrote that he had enormous respect for the National Ambulance Service and in his six years stationed in Connemara he has found the local crew to be extremely professional and caring.

“However there is no doubt in my mind that far too often there are patients who are not getting the immediate care that they need due to the lack of services.”

He pointed out that two ambulances cover the entire Connemara area, one in the south, stationed at Carraroe, and the second in Clifden, leaving North Connemara exposed. These two ambulances leave Connemara during busy times, particularly on weekends to cover urban areas such as Galway and Castlebar.

Figures on 999 ambulance response times from last year show that just over a third of life-threatening cardiac or respiratory cases in the west were responded to within 19 minutes for the month of July – the worst month of the year for response times.

The 19-minute target for 85% of cases is the standard set by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) for “echo” calls. In the west that target was not reached for the entire year.

The best performing month for the service was September, when 83% of incidents were responded to within 19 minutes. The worst was July when just 37% of rigs arrived on the scene in that timeframe.

For five months of the year, half of the ambulances arrived outside of that critical window.

The response times were even slower for incidents classified as delta emergency calls, which are life-threatening cases not involving cardiac or respiratory complaints. The percentage of calls answered within 19 minutes reached 51% for November, the best performing month of 2014.

The Leenane and Maam ambulance steering group said the cases outlined by Dr Casey show that response times are totally unacceptable and fall far short of the recognised standards. They are calling for greater investment for the region.

“We feel that we have highlighted a failing in the system regarding availability of ambulances in the Connemara area. We all appreciate the work carried out by the National Ambulance Service but they can only work within the confines of the budgets as set out by the Government,” said PJ Leavy.

In March, Fine Gael Galway West TD, Seán Kyne, said an investment of €5.4 million for 50 new paramedic posts will boost ambulance services in the west.

The investment will see an additional eleven paramedics allocated to the ambulance base in Tuam and eleven will be allocated to Mulranny, which were highlighted in internal reports as being poorly served and ‘ambulance black spots’.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site

Dara Bradley

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An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.

The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.

It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.

In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.

“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.

A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.

A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.

It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.

Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.

The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG student accommodation firm records loss

Enda Cunningham

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The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.

However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.

Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.

The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.

Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.

The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.

Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.

Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.

The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).

The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.

It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.

As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.

It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.

In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan

Dara Bradley

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Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.

Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.

The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.

It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.

Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.

Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.

“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”

The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.

He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.

“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.

“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.

“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.

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