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Councillors demand meeting over HSE waiting times ‘scandal’

Denise McNamara

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Councillors from across the region united to demand a meeting with all senior HSE managers from the Saolta hospital group to account for the increased waiting lists a decade on from the replacement of the health boards.

Many councillors at this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting lamented the state of the health system across the western seaboard in the face of multiple high-profile managers whom successive ministers held up as the potential saviours.

Several members pointed to the single public MRI machine operating in University Hospital Galway (UHG) – a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for the region – as evidence that the system was just not fit for purpose.

Fine Gael councillor Padraig Conneely said during his recent stay at UHG, he met a Donegal woman and her daughter who discovered the MRI scanner was out of action when they arrived. Her daughter took up a bed for a week while the machine was being fixed; the mother, was forced to spend €60 a night in a B&B.

“What management would stand over a system like that in the commercial sector. They wouldn’t get any bonus or payout. That widowed mother was distraught. I got her a B&B myself for €40 a night. It’s scandalous what’s going on,” he fumed.

The HSE was set up in 2005 when the old health boards were dissolved as they were seen as too parochial. Cllr Conneely and Cllr Catherine Connolly (Ind) were both on the first health forum in 2006, but in that period had seen all too little progress.

Cllr Connolly pointed to the growing waiting lists, increasing use of agency staff increasing and ever more public money going to private institutions to pay for procedures that could not be carried out within a reasonable timeframe in the public hospitals.

In relation to a second motion, in which she called on the minister for health to adequately fund the public health service, Cllr Connolly said there would soon be a “public purse onslaught” to fund increasing numbers of patients to seek treatment overseas.

Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) said she knew of one patient who received a text from the HSE offering to pay transport and the cost of an appointment in a private Dublin hospital due to the waiting times locally.

The only MRI scanner in UHG should be operating past 5pm and at weekends to cut waiting lists, Cllr Mary Hoade (FF) insisted.

Chief Officer for Galway, Mayo and Roscommon Community Services, Tony Canavan, said clearly there were difficulties in the system.

“But it’s important if we’re looking at this openly, we’re also open to the possibility that good things have happened. In the A&E – lots and lots of people go through the A&E, and their experience is good, they’re not the kind of people who complain to you,” he insisted.

Saolta group CEO Maurice Power said there was no difficulty arranging a special meeting with senior management but it could prove tricky to get them all to come at the same time. It would likely happen next March.

CITY TRIBUNE

Army removes explosive device in Knocknacarra

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An army Bomb Disposal Team was called to Knocknacarra last night to deal with a ‘viable’ explosive device.

Following a request from Gardai, the unit was tasked with investigating a suspicious device in a laneway off Cappagh Road at around 10pm.

The area was cordoned off and following an examination, the device was deemed viable and made safe.

It was removed from the scene shortly after 10.30pm and was taken to a Defence Forces location where it will undergo further examination.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Hospital worker failed to self isolate after trip to red-list country

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Management at University Hospital Galway have been asked to investigate ‘as a matter of urgency’ an allegation that a security employee at the hospital returned to work within the 14-day restriction period after coming back from a ‘red-list’ country.

The person has already worked at least two shifts at the hospital – including looking after an elderly patient – despite the fact that the restriction period would not have expired until this Sunday, September 20.

The Galway City Tribune can reveal that in a letter from SIPTU official to a senior UHG manager, it is alleged there was breach of protocol over recent days by an employee of an outsourced security company.

According to the letter to Services Manager Geoff Ginnety, while the worker was not covered under HSE employee rules, “they still must comply with the Government issued protocols”.

The letter from SIPTU states that the worker in question had told his colleagues that he was in a red-listed country and that ‘he did not have to restrict his movements’ for 14 days and could return to work.

“I request that you [Services Manager at UHG] address these concerns as a matter of urgency and provide clear guidance on how to deal with the issue,” the SIPTU letter states.

According to information accessed by the Galway City Tribune, the employee in question returned from a red-listed country on September 6 last and underwent a test for Covid-19 five days later on September 11.

Shortly after that, according to his employers, the results of his Covid tests came back as negative. The Galway City Tribune understands that he returned to his night-shift work on Tuesday night, September 15, and also worked the Wednesday night shift of September 16.

This newspaper has also been informed by reliable sources that on his first night back on duty the employee was left in charge of an elderly patient, while on his second night back at work, he was dutied to the Emergency Department.

When contacted by the Galway City Tribune, a spokesperson for the HSE said that they could not comment on issues relating to individual staff.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Leisureland sinks with €20,000 per week losses

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The plug is being pulled on Leisureland – leaving hundreds of swimmers, mostly children, and trainee lifeguards, high and dry.

Galway Salthill Fáilte CLG, the company that operates the publicly-owned facility, has confirmed it plans to shut down its swimming pool and gym, leaving members of six aquatic clubs, hundreds of schoolchildren, and the general public, without an amenity for the foreseeable future.

Swimming clubs fear they will lose a whole generation of young swimmers in Galway if the pool closes. And they have warned that it could end up costing €1 million to repair and reopen the pool after a prolonged closure.

Leisureland blamed the impact of coronavirus for its financial woes, with losses running at an average of €20,000 per week.

The company said that by August it had already spent its annual €300,000 subsidy subvention from Galway City Council, and the local authority has indicated it is not in a position to increase the subsidy further in 2020.

The planned closure – which could result in the furloughing of over 20 staff from next month – has shocked the local aquatic community.

A lengthy hiatus with Leisureland closed will mean Galway will lose a ‘whole generation’ of swimmers, according to Eamon Caulfield, President of Galway Swimming Club and member and former chairperson of Corrib Water Polo Club.

“We’re particularly upset and aggrieved that this is going ahead, it’s shocking. They should be looking to reverse this decision,” he said this week.

The majority of the five aquatic clubs that use the facility (Galway SC, Shark SC, Laser SC and Tribes and Corrib water polo clubs) are made up of children aged 10-18, including some international athletes. Hundreds of children from Galway schools also learn to swim there.

A water safety group has been using the pool every Sunday morning since it opened in 1973, he said.

“Historically it is where Galway gets its lifeguards from. How can you not have swim lessons in a public pool? How can you not have water safety taught in a pool in Galway?

“It beggars belief, we’re on the sea. The water safety people, where are they going to go, how are we going to get lifeguards for beaches? How are we going to get teachers for teaching swimming?” asked Mr Caulfield.

The clubs have roughly 150 members each and generate €150,000 revenue annually for Leisureland.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full version, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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