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CITY TRIBUNE

Coronavirus poses major threat to homeless

Francis Farragher

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The former Corrib Haven B&B in Newcastle will be available to the homeless for self-isolation.

THE Covid-19 crisis poses very serious challenges for people who are either homeless or living in homeless accommodation, according to the Galway Simon Community.

The charity has set up a Response Team – advised by top medical experts – to deal with the challenges being presented by the virus for both clients and staff.

Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon Community, said that enhanced hygiene and infection control measures had been introduced with clients being supported ‘around good hygiene practices’ in an effort to stop the transmission of the virus.

“Rooms have been identified within Galway Simon’s Services that can be used by people supported by the organisation, should they need to self-isolate.

“Galway Simon Community is wholly focused on the health and safety of our clients, staff and volunteers and in ensuring that we can continue to run services for those who are homeless and at risk of homelessness in Galway,” she said.

Homelessness Prevention Services will continue operating. However, support will be provided over the phone and by email/internet rather than in meetings and there may be delays, given protocols in place to protect clients, staff and the general public around transmission of Coronavirus.

“We have an extraordinary team of committed staff and volunteers, who are pulling out all the stops to ensure that we do everything possible to keep people within our community safe at this very difficult time,” she said.

Sharon Fitzpatrick, Head of Development at the Galway COPE charity that provides support services for homeless and older people as well as those who suffer domestic abuse, described the current situation as ‘changing and dynamic’.

“COPE Galway are acutely conscious that those who are homeless are a vulnerable group for whom we have concerns and we are working in partnership with HSE Public Health and Galway City Council in relation to this guidance.

“For anyone concerned about homelessness please make contact with Galway City Council on 091 536400 for assessment and COPE Galway at 1800 788887,” she said.

The HSE have issued detailed guidelines about preventing the spread of Covid-19 in settings for vulnerable groups such as the homeless, travellers, refugees/asylum seekers and others.

“Current information suggests that Covid-19 can spread easily between people and could be spread by an infected person even before they develop any symptoms.

“For these reasons, we suggest greater attention to cleaning and general hygiene, social distancing measures such as visitor restrictions, limited social mixing generally and especially indoors in communal areas (at least less than 50 persons), as well as greater support to those with chronic illness/disability,” the HSE advise.

CITY TRIBUNE

Redundancies are not on the cards for Galway City Council workers

Dara Bradley

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Redundancies at Galway City Council as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic have been ruled out by Chief Executive Brendan McGrath.

The local authority has imposed a temporary ban on recruitment, but is not planning to lay off any of its 520-strong workforce.

Mr McGrath said that down the road, if this crisis continues for a prolonged period, replacing staff who retire may not be possible. But for now, Council workers are ‘flat out’ maintaining essential services across a range of departments.

“No, we’re not planning that (lay offs). We will endeavour to keep our workforce fully employed. We’ve built up our team since the recession, a lot of our team and the additional bodies we’ve taken on are related to specific projects, for which there was various forms of grant aid available so I think we’d be confident that we will try to be able to retain the entire staff resource,” he said.

Nearly 150 members of staff have been set up to work from home, thanks to the ICT Department at City Hall.

Outdoor staff, and other office staff who must be at City Hall, are observing social distancing guidelines. Offices that used to be packed with people now have one or two workers, spaced in accordance with the guidelines.

As with the private sector, there have been changes to the ‘normal’ working week for Council staff, and some have been redeployed to other areas.

The Council has a statutory obligation to maintain essential services.

“Essential services are anything to do with homelessness; urgent housing repairs like plumbing and electrical; work on houses that were nearly complete to bring back into beneficial use and to bring back into use for self-isolation; public lighting is essential; burst water mains; maintaining traffic lights for road safety; and anything to do with water supply and waste water and treating effluent,” said Mr McGrath.

Street cleaning is classed as ‘necessary but not absolutely essential’, and is a slightly lower category than ‘essential services’.

The rota for street cleaning has been cut back to a number of times a week rather than every day, and this reflects the quieter streets due to people staying at home.

The city’s burial grounds are closed, but graves still need to be opened, and the Planning Department continues to operate.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Cancer patients will have surgeries in private hospitals

Dara Bradley

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Galway Clinic marks its tenth year as a Best Managed company in 2018.

Cancer specialists in Galway are reviewing their patient lists identifying cases that need to be prioritised for urgent surgery and biopsies.

Saolta University Health Care Group, which includes UHG and Merlin Park, has moved to reassure the public that ‘time-sensitive’ cancer cases will get the treatment they need, despite the Covid-19 crisis.

Pat Nash, Chief Clinical Director with the Saolta Group, and consultant cardiologist at UHG, said talks have taken place with Galway Clinic and Bon Secours with a view to cancer surgeries of public patients proceeding at the private hospitals.

“There are many types of cancer, some of which are very time-dependant in that they need intervention very quickly to prevent any bad outcome, whereas others, the immediacy of the time isn’t necessarily going to impact on the long-term outcome.

“I can assure you, that all cases are being reviewed by consultants. Those who need treatment that is time-sensitive, where any delay could impact on outcome, will get treatment.

“Each consultant is reviewing their list and ensuring that any urgent surgery, up until now was accommodated in UHG, but we will be looking to do surgery within Galway Clinic and Bon Secours where we will have capacity and where we can start more or less immediately,” he said.

Meanwhile, cancer patients residing in a residential facility close to UHG while receiving treatment have been relocated to the Harbour Hotel to make way for those battling the Covid-19 pandemic instead.

Cancer Care West offered their 33-bedroom Inis Aoibhinn facility on hospital grounds to University Hospital Galway, which is gearing up capacity to deal with the predicted influx of patients over the coming weeks.

The Harbour Hotel in turn offered its premises free of charge to the charity to accommodate patients from across the region during their treatment.

Richard Flaherty, CEO of Cancer Care West, said staff and 28 residents had relocated to the Harbour Hotel on Monday after the hospital accepted the offer.

It will be used to accommodate staff or patients who need to be isolated close to a medical setting.

“We will continue to provide nursing care and support services onsite at the hotel to our patients.

“We also have arranged transport for the patients to and from treatment as they cannot walk as easily as before to the hospital,” he explained.

“It’s quite a logistical challenge for us, but we knew strategically how important Inis Aoibhinn would be.

“We have to pay for catering and transport but we are particularly grateful to John Lally and his team at the Harbour Hotel for their exceptional generosity for facilitating us at this difficult time.

“As an organisation we are committed to assisting in any way we can the HSE in the fight against Covid-19.”

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CITY TRIBUNE

City Council’s conference call ‘eavesdropper’

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column by Dara Bradley

Galway City Council, like the rest of us, is adapting to the new reality of life under Covid-19 restrictions.

There haven’t been any face-to-face City Council meetings, be they full meetings or committee meetings, since the crisis really hit.

But that doesn’t mean elected members and management are twiddling their thumbs. Far from it – they’re busier than ever, just a different sort of busy.

Last Wednesday evening, city councillors held a conference call with Chief Executive Brendan McGrath.

Members of his management team were also involved in the meeting, which was conducted using technology that allows people to ‘attend’ a meeting online from the comfort of their own homes.

Each member is invited to the virtual meeting through a link sent to their email account. They click into this and then they are ‘in’ the meeting and can speak and see the others, also attending remotely.

A reliable deep-throat who participated in Wednesday’s chat informs us that the meeting had to be stopped – at the behest of McGrath – and restarted, over fears someone was eavesdropping.

The suspicion is that the link to join the meeting was sent to someone it shouldn’t have been, and this person attempted to listen in.

“Brendan halted the meeting and we had to hang up and start again because a mystery man was listening-in on the teleconference. It was hacked but Brendan has the number and can find out who it was,” said one source.

If the standard of debate at the tele-conference was anything like some of the drivel you can get at some ordinary Council meetings, then the conference-blocked hacker didn’t miss much!

For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune

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