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Galway hospitals run up €11m debt

Denise McNamara

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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.

CITY TRIBUNE

Residents call in the clampers to sort problem parking

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in a Salthill estate have become tired of illegal parking outside their homes – and hired private clampers as a deterrent.

People living in Seamount off Threadneedle Road near Blackrock said they have been plagued by extra traffic and vehicles parking outside their homes, blocking access, during the latest Covid lockdown.

They said that since Galway City Council closed off the Prom to car parking, and closed the two public carparks, the cars have just migrated to Threadneedle Road and their estate.

Seamount is a private estate and the road has not been taken in charge by the Council. The residents have clubbed together and hired a clamping company, which will erect signs in the coming days and begin clamping illegally parked cars from next week.

Residents said they are also concerned that cars parked on Threadneedle Road are making it more difficult for buses to pass, and cause congestion.

A residents’ spokesperson said: “Since the lockdown, they closed off the Prom and closed off Salthill car park but people are still using the Prom and swimming off Blackrock. I have huge admiration for the swimmers, I do it myself when it’s warmer. But what’s happening is they park on both sides of Threadneedle Road, because there’re no yellow lines on either side of it and it’s not wide enough for cars to be parked either side of it, so buses are getting stuck.”
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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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG President’s upset at Covid breaches on campus

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – “I work in the hospital and we have had a really awful six weeks. We have nowhere to sit down and have our breaks. We are exhausted and would long to see family and friends. To see public health guidelines [being flouted] on NUIG property is a kick in the teeth.”

These are the words of an angry and frustrated healthcare worker at University Hospital Galway in a message sent to the head of NUIG.

President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh told students and staff at the university this week that he found it “deeply frustrating” that some students were flouting public health guidelines.

The HSE has confirmed that there were at least 441 cases of Covid in the city’s 18-24 age group – which has affected 224 households – in the past three weeks.

“Our neighbours contacted me expressing their upset at what they see as activities by our students that do not respect the health and safety of the community at large. People who work in the health service, people who have lost friends and relations to Covid-19. I share their upset.

“I was struck, for example, by one particularly heartfelt message from a local healthcare worker and campus user who shared their frustration with me last week on seeing groups congregating and socialising on campus grounds and which they agreed we could share,” Prof Ó hÓgartaigh said.

The head of the university shared the message in an email to students and staff this week, adding that students had expressed frustration that study spaces were not open on campus and at the challenges posed by the constricted spaces in which they study.

NUIG confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it had imposed sanctions on a number of students in relation to Covid breaches, while there have been none at GMIT.
This is a brief 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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CITY TRIBUNE

Principals band together for safer cycling infrastructure

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A total of 28 Galway City school principals have signed an open letter to the Minister for Transport and local councillors highlighting the need for safer cycling infrastructure around schools, to encourage students and staff to switch to bikes.

The push by Government to cycle or walk where possible during the pandemic has its limitations in a city where cycle lanes are rare and parents are too afraid to let their children cycle on narrow roads often choked with traffic.

A group of cycling enthusiasts in city schools has been campaigning to encourage the school community to engage with Galway City Council’s public consultation process for the next development plan which will have a key role in deciding whether cycling lanes or off-road cycle routes become a reality.

The first stage of the initial consultation process for the ‘City Development Plan 2023-2029, Your City, Your Future’ closes today (Friday). But the process will continue for two more years with more consultation encouraged once the draft plan is published.

This week a letter from 28 principals sent to councillors called for support for the provision of better cycle infrastructure in and around all schools. It has also been sent to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Galway West TD and Minister of State at Cabinet, Hildegarde Naughton.

“It is our view that existing road infrastructure around schools can be unsafe for children, teachers, and families who wish to cycle to school and we would like to encourage the development safe cycling routes in the future,” the letter states.

Principal of Coláiste na Coiribe, Eoghan Ó Ceallaigh, said it was important for the school community to get involved with the public consultation.

(Photo: Last year, the Council introduced a ‘School Streets’ pilot scheme at Scoil Iognáid, which bans cans during certain times, encouraging parents and children to walk or cycle. Schools now want proper cycling infrastructure put in place).
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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