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€146m slashed from hospital budget in six years

Dara Bradley

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Over €146 million has been sucked out of the budget of University Hospital Galway (UHG) during six years of austerity that were characterised by waiting lists and cutbacks.

Figures released to Sinn Féin prove that the level of funding of UHG hasn’t fully recovered since 2008, when the city hospital’s budget was first slashed.

Connemara-based Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has slammed the current and previous Governments for starving UHG of funding.

Data released to Sinn Féin health spokesperson Pearse Doherty by Ann Cosgrove, general manager of Galway University Hospitals, show that funding at UHG in 2008 was €274 million.

That was cut consistently to €271 million in 2009; to €247 million in 2010; to €242 million in 2011; and to €232 million in 2012. In 2013, the budgets began to increase but have not yet returned to 2008 levels.

In 2013 it received €253 million; it increased to €258 million in 2014; and this year it has received an allocation of €269 million, which is still over €5 million short of the 2008 budget.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said that the cumulative amount that was sucked out of UHG since 2008 was more than €146m. The figure is calculated as if UHG hadn’t been cut over the past six years.

He pointed out that the reduced budget came during a period when outpatient waiting lists grew to over 30,000.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said that the amount UHG was funded by in 2008 was probably too low, and it certainly isn’t enough now because staff are under increasing pressure with additional patients and more services offered.

“The waiting list figures for University Hospital Galway are scandalous and among the worst in the state. While these figures are truly shocking, it is little wonder as the staff at UHG have been consistently asked to do more with less. Figures from hospital management show that a cumulative amount of €146 million has been taken from the budget of UHG over the past six years by successive Governments.

“The results of such systematic underfunding are clear to see as over 1,000 people are waiting over a year for inpatient treatment while over 7,000 are on the outpatient waiting list for over a year. This revelation comes the same week as the psychiatric nurses working in the hospital have been forced to consider industrial action in order for HSE management to address their very real concerns about their unsafe working environment.”

He said the Government ‘spin-doctors’ maintain that the situation is improving but Senator Ó Clochartaigh said that’s not the reality on the ground.

“It is not good enough for Government Ministers up in Dublin to be congratulating each other for an economic recovery that has not reached Galway while our health service is bursting at the seams. The Minister for Health must answer to the people of Galway in relation to these figures and take immediate action to ensure that our hospital receives adequate funding and resources to tackle these waiting lists,” Senator Ó Clochartaigh added.

Connacht Tribune

A Moycullen win would add badly needed spice to football’s big day

John McIntyre

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Conor Reddington of Annaghdown and Tuam Stars' Adam Carton in action during the North Board Minor B football final at Tuam Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

BEFORE a ball was kicked in this year’s Galway senior championship, the smart money would have been on champions Corofin, Tuam Stars, Salthill/Knocknacarra and Mountbellew/Moylough making it to the semi-finals if they managed to keep out of each other’s way on the road to the penultimate stage off the title race.

Unfortunately, for a Salthill team which, in any event, didn’t scale their expected heights this year, they came up against the champions in the quarter-finals where the Seasiders’ challenge was dismissed in convincing fashion. It was business as usual for Corofin who remain odds on to claim a record-breaking eighth consecutive title.

With Tuam Stars edging out Bearna after extra-time, a Paul Kelly goal helping Moycullen get the better of St James’, and Mountbellew/Moylough powering home against 14-man Killannin, it means that three of last year’s semi-finalists are back seeking a place in the Galway decider this weekend. Mountbellew/Moylough are the odd ones out having fallen to Corofin in the 2019 quarter-finals.

Val Daly’s troops will need the performance of the lives to overturn club’s football’s dominant power, especially as they continue to field without county player John Daly – a son of their manager. Of course, they are not without a chance and if the likes of Michael Daly, Matthew Barrett, Eoin Finnerty, Eoin Ryan and Barry McHugh hit the ground running, they could give Corofin a searching time.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Greens see red on gold rush

Dara Bradley

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Opposition is intensifying to the prospect of a licence being awarded to Canadian gold prospectors planning to explore the heart of Connemara.

Environmental campaigners have warned of the dangers of awarding a prospecting licence to Toronto-based MOAG to mine for gold and silver in land around Roundstone, Ballyconneely and Ballynahinch.

They claim the exploration could devastate water supplies, tourism, wildlife – and also led to tensions in the local community.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton has indicated he intends to grant a prospecting licence to the company to explore for the valuable minerals in townlands in Ballynahinch Barony.

The licence allows the holder to explore for mineral deposits, and does not authorise mining of any materials that are found – that requires further licensing.

And Minister Bruton’s Department insists that the activities permitted under this licence are “non-invasive” and “of minimal environmental impact”.

However, campaigners have warned of the dangers mining can have on Connemara, and have urged the public to object before July 6.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Controversial Ballinasloe landfill prepares for closure

Declan Tierney

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The Galway dump that forced householders to close their windows during the hottest of summers will take in waste for the last time during the middle of this year.

The pong the emanated from the landfill site in Kilconnell will be no more as it will cease accepting waste by the end of June next year.

Ballinasloe area councillors were told how Galway County Council took over the running of the landfill site following the liquidation of the former operators Greenstar.

The Council agreed to accept 300,000 tons of municipal waste over a three-year period and this will come to an end by the middle of next year, after which the dump will be capped and closed the following year.

Director of Services Jim Cullen informed a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that following the closure of the dump, there would be long term care of the site to ensure that there would be no adverse environmental issues.

When Galway County Council took over the running of the landfill site, an allocation of €300,000 was provided by the Department of the Environment for local projects.

Of this, €120,000 has been given to the area engineer to spend at his discretion and the remaining €180,000 has been dispersed equally among the six Ballinasloe councillors – resulting in each getting €30,000 to spend on projects in their area.

It is expected that a further €300,000 will be allocated to organisations within a certain radius of the landfill site and a committee made up of Cllr Aidan Donohue (FG), Cllr Dermot Connolly (SF) and Cllr Timmy Broderick (Ind) to decide how this fund will be dispersed.

For years, the dump in Kilconnell caused annoyance for local residents because of the smells emanating from the site and many householders say that it is still a major problem.

Cllr Michael Finnerty warned about the possibility of a run-off of leachate – a liquid that drains from landfill sites that can cause pollution – from the site into the future.

He said that he attended a meeting in Ballinasloe in which residents expressed concern about a leachate run-off from the old dump in Poolboy which has been closed down for years.

He was assured by Mr Cullen that the situation in Poolboy was being continually monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency but he would investigate these claims.

With regard to the closure of the dump in Kilconnell, Cllr Aidan Donohue said that he was not convinced about the ongoing maintenance of the site into the future.

He said when the landfill site in New Inn was closed many years ago, the Council just walked away and left the site in an unacceptable state.

The Fine Gael councillor was referring to suggestions that the Kilconnell site might have future potential and may be an asset but he cited what happened in New Inn when he said that it was just abandoned.

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