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Councillor among 5,800 people yet to pay A&E bill

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University Hospital Galway (UHG) is owed almost €600,000 in unpaid Emergency Department (ED) charges, new figures reveal.

Saolta, the group that manages the city hospital, has confirmed that some €593,400 is owing to UHG in unpaid charges for patients’ visits to ED.

This amount of money in unpaid bills relates to 5,805 patient accounts as of November 31, 2015, Saolta said.

The figures were released to this newspaper under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

The ED of UHG has been consistently criticised by patients, staff and politicians for overcrowding, huge numbers of patients on trolleys, and lengthy waiting times to be seen and treated.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar have both separately agreed that it is not fit for purpose.

A former city mayor and chairperson of the HSE West Regional Health Forum, City Councillor Pádraig Conneely (FG) said he was ‘not surprised’ by the figure, which he said was ‘quite high’.

Cllr Padraic Conneely: “I think patients are resisting payment because they are not getting the standard of treatment”.

Cllr Padraic Conneely: “I think patients are resisting payment because they are not getting the standard of treatment”.

“I think patients are resisting payment because they are not getting the standard of treatment and service that they expect for their visit to the Emergency Department which costs €100. And I wouldn’t blame them . . . I think if you go to the Emergency Department and are seen within a few hours and are treated then people would be happy to pay.

“But when you’re left waiting on trolleys for hours and hours on end, or when you don’t even get a trolley, and then they send you home without being seen and you have to come back again the next day and go through the whole thing all over again . . . people aren’t happy to pay for that service,” he said.

Councillor Conneely, who presented at the ED last Summer, confirmed he is one of the 5,805 patients who has yet to pay his bill.

The long-standing critic of the HSE and certain aspects of the hospital, said he has been billed €300 although it relates to the same visit.

“I was in there Race Week on the Thursday and didn’t even get a trolley. I was waiting on a chair for hours and was sent home. I had to go back in the next day because the pain didn’t go away.

“I had to go through the whole procedure again and tell them everything and was left waiting for hours and then was sent home again. I was in agony. I returned on the Saturday and told them it was serious and that I was not leaving until I got a bed. And then they billed me for three separate visits – I couldn’t believe it!

“I’m not surprised that the hospital is owed that amount of money because like me, many people are probably being billed several times for the same thing,” he said.

Councillor Conneely, who is on the mend, said he would pay €100 but would be disputing being charged three times.

Saolta does not comment on individual cases. In relation to the total owing to UHG, it said the figure relates to “all patients attending the Emergency Department and includes older balances that have been referred to debt collectors which may be written off before the year end. I wish to advise that Galway University Hospitals makes every effort to ensure that outstanding monies are recouped.”

Connacht Tribune

Boil water notice issued for Barna area

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A boil water notice has been issued for the Barna area for health protection purposes

The areas affected are Barna Village, Truskey West and Truskey East, Barr Aille, Fermoyle, Ballard and along the Connemara Coast Road as far as Furbo, and on the Barna/Galway Road as far as Silverstrand.

The notice has been put in place due to issues with disinfection of the water at Tonabruckey Reservoir.

The notice affects approximately 2,300 people supplied by the Barna section of the Galway City West Public Water Supply area.

Customers in the area served by Tonabrucky Reservoir will notice increased levels of chlorine in their water supply in the coming days as we work to resolve the issue.

Vulnerable customers who have registered with Irish Water will receive direct communication on this Boil Water Notice.

Irish water, the City Council and the HSE will monitor the supply and will lift the notice when it is safe to do so.

In line with HSE Covid-19 advice and the requirement for frequent hand washing, Irish Water advises that the water remains suitable for this purpose and boiling the water is not required.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Councillors back bid to ban city centre parking in Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have unanimously agreed to ask Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to limit parking to residents only in the city centre.

Pedestrians in the city are being treated like second-class citizens, according to the Mayor, who said cars continued to get the priority on Galway’s streets.

At a meeting of the City Council this week, Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said the city had come to a standstill in car traffic, and pedestrians and cyclists were suffering the consequences.

“At junctions, why am I a second-class citizen in my own city as a pedestrian? It rains in Galway for 300 days of the year, but I am a second-class citizen when priority is given to motorists.

“It’s always the pedestrian that waits,” she said, hitting out at the length it took to get a green light to cross at pedestrian crossings.

One way to reduce the number of cars in the city centre would be to limit parking to residents only in the city centre, said the Mayor.

In a motion she proposed, seconded by Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind), councillors unanimously agreed to write to the Minister for Transport to demand he pass the necessary legislation to enable the Council to do this.

The Mayor said residents were “sick, sore and tired” of people parking where they wanted when they visited the city and said despite a desire to introduce this measure going back almost 20 years, the Council was hamstrung by national legislation that prevented them from proceeding.

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

Planners approve homes for ‘cuckoo fund’ investor

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The green light has been given for the construction of 345 apartments at the Crown Square site in Mervue – the majority of which will be put on the rental market and operated by a ‘cuckoo fund’ for a minimum of fifteen years.

Crown Square Developments, which is owned by developer Padraic Rhatigan, has secured permission from An Bord Pleanála for the ‘Build to Rent’ development, with four blocks ranging ranging from four to nine storeys in height.

There will also be a neighbourhood facility with a gym, a primary care medical centre with pharmacy, a ‘working from home’ lounge, six shops, a games room and a creche.

There will be 240 two-bed apartments, 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds, all of which will be specifically for the rental market and not available to purchase.

A breakdown of the apartments shows there will be 240 two-beds; 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds.

To meet social housing requirements, the developer plans to transfer 35 of the apartments (20 two-bed, 10 one-bed and 5 three-bed) to Galway City Council.

A total of 138 car-parking spaces have been allocated on the lower basement levels of Crown Square for residents, along with shared access to another 109 spaces and another 13 for use by a ‘car club’. There will be 796 secure bicycle parking spaces to serve the apartments.

The Board has ordered that the apartments can only be used as long-term rentals, and none can be used for short-term lettings.

Under ‘Build to Rent’ guidelines, the development must be owned and operated by an institutional entity for a minimum period of 15 years and “where no individual residential units shall be sold separately for that period”. The 15-year period starts from the date of occupation of the first residential unit.

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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