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Deferred strike causes surgery cancellations

Dara Bradley

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Some 17 surgeries were postponed at Galway city’s main public hospital on Tuesday, despite nurses’ deferring planned strike action at the West’s largest Emergency Department.

Management at University Hospital Galway (UHG) confirmed that the “non urgent elective” surgeries postponed due to the threat of strike action by ED nurses will be rescheduled.

“There were seven inpatient admissions and ten day case admissions cancelled,” confirmed Saolta University Healthcare Group, which is responsible for UHG.

“All patients affected will be contacted directly by the hospital. A new date will be re-scheduled as soon as possible.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) announced Monday night that it was deferring strike action at UHG and six other EDs nationwide. It said two planned strike days in January (Tuesdays 12 and 26) remain in place.

Nurses will vote on a deal brokered between INMO and the Health Service Executive (HSE) over the next fortnight following a proposal that emerged at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The new measures under the package include, “tightening and earlier activation of the national ‘escalation’ policy” to minimise overcrowding and waits on trolleys and to avoid extra beds and trolleys on inpatient wards.

The package includes measures to assist with recruitment and retention of nurses in EDs, including minimum staff levels, and an educational bursary for new entrants, worth €1,500 and payable after 12 months in employment. It also includes measures to improve health and safety of EDs.

UHG repeated its view that its Emergency Department is “not fit for purpose” and the need to replace it is “urgent”.  It said 30 extra inpatient beds, close to ED, will be in place “shortly”.  “These beds will provide much needed additional patient accommodation. Work is also continuing on the construction of a new 75-bed ward block to provide single room in-patient accommodation and this is expected to be completed in 18 months,” it said.

UHG said the ED continues to be “extremely busy” with a “sustained increase in the emergency admission rate throughout the year”.

Prior to the deferral of strike action, nurses at UHG’s ED said their protest was against “years of inhumane, undignified and immoral conditions that we, as professionals, and the patients we are accountable to, have endured.”

The nurses said their “ability to maintain safe standards of care, in the face of horrendous overcrowding, is being compromised, due to inadequate staffing and a building that has been described by so many as being ‘unfit for purpose’.”

In a letter, the nurses said: “Our patients deserve safe standards of care. They deserve clean, well-staffed, timely professional nursing care when they attend our ED. Patients, and their families, have witnessed first-hand the mayhem, congestion, abuse and intolerable conditions that nurses and patients have had to endure in the ED setting. What a sad indictment of a health service that purports to put the patient first!”

The letter was signed by Siobhan McGrath, Sinead O’Neill, Pamela Bartley, Marina O’Flanagan and Ann Marie Considine on behalf of all INMO ED staff at UHG.

Fianna Fáil County Councillor and election candidate in Galway West, Mary Hoade, fears the city hospital will creak under further pressures of winter.

“I am extremely worried about what will happen over the next few months, when winter takes hold and traditionally we see more people admitted to hospital. The ED at UHG is already seriously over capacity and I have grave concerns that it will reach breaking point when more people begin arriving into the Department in January and February,” said Cllr Hoade.

Sinn Féin election candidate in Galway East, Annemarie Roche, criticised the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar and said 30 new beds was not enough to solve the ED crisis.

Social Democrats candidate in Galway West, Niall Ó Tuathail, who has worked in the NHS in England, said the easiest way to alleviate pressure on the ED is to reduce the amount of people who need to go there. This could be achieved through an expansion of primary care, a phone triage service, and opening out-of-hours minor injuries units, he said.

CITY TRIBUNE

Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island

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Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.

A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.

Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.

It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.

Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.

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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash

Enda Cunningham

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A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.

At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.

The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Salthill Garda Station (091) 514 720 the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.

Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.

It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.

In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”

It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.

“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.

“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”

Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.

The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
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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