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

Dara Bradley

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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.”

CITY TRIBUNE

“It will be akin to the notorious Rahoon flats”

Enda Cunningham

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The Rahoon flats, which were built in 1972 and demolished in 1998, widely regarded as a failed social housing project.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – More than 700 local residents have signed a petition against plans for the construction of 330 apartments in Knocknacarra – which have been likened to “the notorious Rahoon flats”.

Child safeguarding concerns have also been raised by the principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh – who pointed out that the apartments will look directly into 19 classrooms.

A total of 27 objections were lodged against Glenveagh Living’s plans to build 332 apartments in six blocks – ranging from four storeys to seven storeys in height.

Locals have demanded An Bord Pleanála hold an oral hearing into the plans – that planning authority is due to make a decision by March 20, although it can decide to hold such a hearing first.

A computer-generated image of the Glenveagh plans for the site opposite Gort na Bró and beside Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh.

One of the objections – which accuses the developer of designing “tenement style” homes in a “blatant attempt to profiteer from the housing crisis” – was signed by more than 700 local residents.

Another objector said the development was “akin to the notorious Rahoon flats, with people being packed on top of each other”.

Locals have raised concerns about the huge number of apartments planned; overshadowing of homes; inadequate open space, playing pitches and community infrastructure; parking and traffic problems; low quality of design and road safety.

Glenveagh Living did not respond to a request from the Galway City Tribune for comment.
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the Glenveagh plans and objections, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Arts fraternity rallies as Theo faces deportation

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Less than a year after being invited by the Arts Council to perform at a conference about diversity in the arts, a musician, DJ and rapper – who is about to embark on a project for Galway 2020 – is facing deportation.

Theophilus Ndlovu left Zimbabwe after what he claims was a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to mind him.

His mother left when he was just six years old and he never met his father. He was placed in the care of an unofficial foster family but it was never a happy arrangement.

“These people I stayed with were abusing me. They were never my family. I was running away from persecution and abuse and the way I was treated by these people. I had to fend for myself since I was ten years old,” he recalls.

When Theo was 20, he saved up enough money from mowing lawns and selling chickens to escape, arriving in Ireland where he sought asylum. Authorities placed him in a Direct Provision Centre in Finglas for a fortnight before he was transferred to the Great Western Direct Provision Centre off Eyre Square, where he has remained for nearly four years.

Almost immediately, Theo felt at home.

“This is my family. Galway is where I found my voice. It has become my home. It is just where I’m meant to be.”

Theo has immersed himself in the arts community and has become a leading hip-hop artist, known as Touché, performing regularly at venues such as the Róisín Dubh and the Black Gate. He was instrumental in getting fellow asylum seekers and refugees involved in music collaborations.

He is a founding member of the multicultural music project ‘Atmos Collective’ and has facilitated numerous music workshops in Galway, “teaching, motivating and inspiring hundreds of young people along the way”, according to co-founder Alice McDowell, an Australian filmmaker and fiddler.

The collective was recently granted funding by the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 committee to host community music workshops in the city and county over the next year as part of their ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ scheme.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

The petition is available online HERE

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CITY TRIBUNE

Regeneration funding sought for community centre

Stephen Corrigan

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A computer-generated image of the proposed communit centre in Newcastle

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – With a decision imminent on planning permission to build a new community centre in Newcastle, city councillors will be asked next Monday to support an application for major government funding to proceed with the project.

A motion by Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) will seek the approval of the City Council to make an application for funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) – an overall fund of €2bn available for major infrastructural projects in cities.

Chairman of the Newcastle Combined Community Association (NCCA) Seamus Davey said that they expected a decision on their planning application by the end of January, and were hopeful of getting the support of councillors for this funding application.

“While planning permission hasn’t been granted yet – it has dragged on a bit because of a request for further information – we expect to have it approved soon.

“This project will be shovel ready and as soon as we get planning permission, we’ll have the engineering documents drawn up. As soon as we have funding, we’ll be putting it out to tender,” said Mr Davey.

The Council is set to reach a decision on the application on February 6.

The proposal for funding under the URDF has to come from the Council so it is crucial the project got the full backing of Council members, Mr Davey added.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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