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Deferred strike causes surgery cancellations



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.


LDA identifies lands for over 6,000 new homes in Galway City



From this week’s City Tribune: Investment of €1.8 billion is needed to deliver on the potential for more than 6,000 new housing units identified by the Land Development Agency in Galway City.

The LDA’s Report on Relevant Public Land identified eight sites in Galway which it claims can deliver up to 6,050 affordable and social houses, if planning and other constraints are overcome.

It identified potential for up to 2,240 homes on HSE land at Merlin Park Hospital; up to 1,010 homes at Renmore Barracks; and up to 950 homes at Galway Harbour.

The report conceded these sites are on complex land with “numerous constraints” and are longer-term possibilities requiring masterplans.

The other six sites include: Ballymoneen Road; Terryland Waterworks on Dyke Road; Brothers of Charity Services on Old Dublin Road; City Hall at College Road; and Sandy Road.

Galway’s sites are among 83 State-owned landbanks the LDA has assessed as having development potential for up to 67,000 homes.

Only Ballymoneen Road and Dyke Road are in what the LDA terms Class 1, which can deliver a maximum of 420 within five-ten years.

This includes between 140-200 homes on Ballymoneen Road, and between 160-220 homes at Terryland Waterworks on Dyke Road.

The cost for the development of Ballymoneen Road, on a site opposite Coláiste na Coiribe, would be between €41.2m-€50.7m.

The total cost of delivering up to 220 homes on the Teryland site is between €78.5m and €101m

The remaining 93% of the total city target face greater constraints, and longer timeframes.

Almost 70% of the  target, or 4,200 units, is earmarked for sites that are ‘Class 3’, which are lands that have potential for residential but face more constraints and are longer-term possibilities requiring masterplans.

The LDA carried out an assessment on the eight sites in the city, which had an “indicative yield” of between 4,330 and 6,050 new housing units.

John Coleman, LDA Chief Executive said his organisation was “committed to working closely with the public bodies to find common ground for the release of land for affordable housing purposes and for the common good”.

This was a first step that “will lead to the identification of locations where new affordable homes can be built”, he added.

(Image: Lands at Galway Harbour identified by the LDA for up to 950 homes).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read extensive coverage of the LDA report and for indicative maps of the lands, see the March 31 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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Transport concerns over Knocknacarra high-rise apartments plan



From this week’s City Tribune: Galway City Council has sought further information from the applicants proposing to develop 227 apartments in seven high-rise blocks at the entrance to Gateway Retail Park in Knocknacarra.

In what is the second application for the site at Gort na Bró, Glenveagh Living Ltd is seeking to develop five blocks ranging in height from three to five storeys – with 85 one-bed units, 139 two-bed units; and three three-bed units.

In a Further Information request, the Council noted that Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) expressed concerns that the development “is located in close proximity to the preferred and/or approved route” of the N6 Galway City Ring Road.

“The authority is of the opinion that insufficient data has been submitted with the planning application to demonstrate that the proposed development will not have a detrimental impact on the capacity, safety or operational efficiency of the national road network in the vicinity of the site”.

Planners state that the creation of a “fifth arm” on the roundabout from the Western Distributor Road into Gateway Shopping Park and the site proposed for development was not discussed at pre-planning meetings and “is not permitted”.

Cycling facilities have been identified as concerning, as the two-way cycling lane on the WDR “ends abruptly”, bringing cyclists into the path of oncoming traffic.

Bicycle parking included in the application would be “difficult and inconvenient” to access and would not store non-standard bikes with cargo elements, it is outlined.

(Photo: Cllr John Connolly meets with residents to discuss the Glenveagh apartments proposal).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the March 31 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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Junction underpass in Galway City regularly left under water



From this week’s Galway City Tribune: An underpass to facilitate pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate the Briarhill junction is regularly flooded with up to three feet of water discommoding the most vulnerable road users.

The popular ‘line’ walkway connecting Renmore to the heart of the city is also often deluged with water.

The two routes are used by hundreds of people to get around without cars but are an example of how Galway City Council are slow to address active travel issues, according to newly co-opted Social Democrats Councillor Alan Curran.

Cllr Curran had to warn off four people from walking through the underpass when he passed through last week.

“It’s like that for a few weeks. This happens regularly. I understand from the Council it’s a drainage issue. They’re aware of it and they have cleaned it out but it keeps returning in heavy rain,” he explained.

“The impression I got was it will take a while to get fixed. It may require some heavy engineering solution. My concern is the longer these things go on, the less people use them. Their only other option is wait ten minutes or longer at the begging buttons to cross four sets of lights.

“The entrances are dark and narrow and don’t give the illusion of safety for those using it, especially during the dark winter months. There was a pedestrian and cycling tunnel recently built in Amsterdam and the difference is stark – they know how to do it right.”

Head of Transport at Galway City Council, Uinsinn Finn, said the underpass was constructed as part of the original N6 Link, in the mid-90s when a roundabout operated.

When the roundabout was replaced with a signalised junction, with pedestrian crossing facilities and cycling lanes across the junction, the underpass worked more as a secondary option for pedestrians and cyclists.

“Underpasses – and overpasses – are not ideal and not considered in the city as we put pedestrians and cyclist generally ahead of motorised traffic and accommodate them at junctions with at-grade crossings,” the engineer stated.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the March 31 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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