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Galway hospitals run up €11m debt



The two Galway public hospitals were €11m over budget by the end of July, accounting for the largest deficit run up by any hospital in the region.

In an article published in the Saolta hospital group newsletter, acting group chief financial officer Tony Baynes revealed that the hospitals as a whole were nearly €29m in the red, which is €5m worse than the same time last year.

University Hospital Galway (UHG) and Merlin Park Hospital had spent €168.5m until the end of July when they only had earmarked €157m.

Pay costs were the biggest factor in the overspend, with wages accounting for nearly €16m of an overrun.

Agency costs for medical and support services staff increased significantly on 2014. Support services workers – mainly hired to look after patients who required one-on-one care – had jumped by €1.5m in a year.

Cllr Mary Hoade told this week’s Regional Health Forum West meeting that the HSE had stated nationally that 82% of its agency staff budget had been used by the end of May.

Chief officer for Galway Mayo Roscommon community services within the Saolta Hospital Group said they operated a staff budget rather than an agency budget.

The two Galway hospitals had hired 80 staff nurses since the beginning of the year and another 27 had been interviewed in the last month. A further 17 staff nurses were returning from the UK to take up posts in December, he stated.

Mr Baynes revealed that other costs such as drugs, medical supplies and

private ambulances had shot up by €14m over the seven months.

Patient debt was another cause of concern for the group’s finances, with patients across the seven hospitals racking up debts of €77m – up €8.5m since the end of last year.

The only positive element in the books was the €2m hike in group income, he outlined.

However a further €35m in income was stalled due to consultants failing to sign off on claims – a long-running problem for the HSE which was raised at the meeting by the Forum chairman, Cllr Tom McNamara from Clare.

All hospitals in the group – the two in Galway, Letterkenny, Sligo, Mayo, Portiuncla and Roscommon – had experienced a jump in private ambulance use. Some 2,239 trips were paid for in the first five months of this year, an increase of 34%.

Mr Baynes said this was due to a decrease of eleven available ambulances.

In answer to a question by Tuam area Councillor Donagh Killilea (FF), the HSE revealed that 11 ambulance staff had left the service before the age of retirement over four years.

The ambulance base in Tuam had eight staff on duty, which allowed for round-the-clock cover but without relief staff. These were drawn from other crews across the west of Ireland. Approval had been given for a further four staff, which would be recruited over the next 18 months.


Councillors back bid to ban city centre parking in Galway



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have unanimously agreed to ask Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to limit parking to residents only in the city centre.

Pedestrians in the city are being treated like second-class citizens, according to the Mayor, who said cars continued to get the priority on Galway’s streets.

At a meeting of the City Council this week, Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said the city had come to a standstill in car traffic, and pedestrians and cyclists were suffering the consequences.

“At junctions, why am I a second-class citizen in my own city as a pedestrian? It rains in Galway for 300 days of the year, but I am a second-class citizen when priority is given to motorists.

“It’s always the pedestrian that waits,” she said, hitting out at the length it took to get a green light to cross at pedestrian crossings.

One way to reduce the number of cars in the city centre would be to limit parking to residents only in the city centre, said the Mayor.

In a motion she proposed, seconded by Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind), councillors unanimously agreed to write to the Minister for Transport to demand he pass the necessary legislation to enable the Council to do this.

The Mayor said residents were “sick, sore and tired” of people parking where they wanted when they visited the city and said despite a desire to introduce this measure going back almost 20 years, the Council was hamstrung by national legislation that prevented them from proceeding.

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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Planners approve homes for ‘cuckoo fund’ investor



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The green light has been given for the construction of 345 apartments at the Crown Square site in Mervue – the majority of which will be put on the rental market and operated by a ‘cuckoo fund’ for a minimum of fifteen years.

Crown Square Developments, which is owned by developer Padraic Rhatigan, has secured permission from An Bord Pleanála for the ‘Build to Rent’ development, with four blocks ranging ranging from four to nine storeys in height.

There will also be a neighbourhood facility with a gym, a primary care medical centre with pharmacy, a ‘working from home’ lounge, six shops, a games room and a creche.

There will be 240 two-bed apartments, 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds, all of which will be specifically for the rental market and not available to purchase.

A breakdown of the apartments shows there will be 240 two-beds; 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds.

To meet social housing requirements, the developer plans to transfer 35 of the apartments (20 two-bed, 10 one-bed and 5 three-bed) to Galway City Council.

A total of 138 car-parking spaces have been allocated on the lower basement levels of Crown Square for residents, along with shared access to another 109 spaces and another 13 for use by a ‘car club’. There will be 796 secure bicycle parking spaces to serve the apartments.

The Board has ordered that the apartments can only be used as long-term rentals, and none can be used for short-term lettings.

Under ‘Build to Rent’ guidelines, the development must be owned and operated by an institutional entity for a minimum period of 15 years and “where no individual residential units shall be sold separately for that period”. The 15-year period starts from the date of occupation of the first residential unit.

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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Councillors divided over vote on Salthill Prom cycleway



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to install a temporary two-way cycle lane along Salthill Promenade hangs in the balance, with city councillors split ahead of a vote next week.

On Monday night, the 18 city councillors will discuss Mayor Colette Connolly’s motion that the lane be installed on the coastal side of the road from Blackrock to a point opposite Galway Business School.

A poll of the councillors carried out by the Galway City Tribune yesterday found nine in favour of the proposal, with one indicating they will abstain. A simple majority is required and if there is a 9-9 split, the Mayor holds a ‘casting’ vote, effectively a second vote.

There has been a flurry of lobbying by cycling campaigners urging councillors to vote in favour, as well as some complaints from residents worried it will again impinge on their parking as visitors to Salthill seek somewhere to park up while they swim or walk along the most utilised resource the city has.

During lockdown, Gardaí removed parking on the Prom to deter people from gathering in a public space. This resulted in motorists blocking driveways and entering private estates, leading one estate off Threadneedle Road to hire a private clamping company.

Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) believes there are a maximum of 250 spaces that would be lost to the project on one side of the road as currently proposed, including seven disabled spaces, which could be reassigned close by.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the issue and to see how each councillor intends to vote, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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