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Galway’s public hospital waiting lists grow to 51,000 people



Waiting lists for outpatients and inpatients/day cases at University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park are continuing to grow – more than 51,000 people are now on the lists to see a consultant at the two city hospitals.

More people are waiting on the inpatient lists in the city than for any other hospital in the country, while only the Mater in Dublin has a worse outpatients list.

Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish described the figures as ‘unacceptable’ and pointed out that many people waiting for treatment have had to put their lives on hold due to the severity of their conditions.

Many of the patients – who are suffering from serious and debilitating conditions – are faced with lengthy delays for an initial appointment with a consultation, and those figures continue to grow.

A Galway City Tribune analysis of the official figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) shows that at the end of June, there were 7,281 people waiting 18 months or longer for their first outpatient appointment at Galway University Hospitals (both UHG and Merlin combined).

That is up from 5,433 – an increase of just over one third – from the same time last year.

This week, the Galway City Tribune publishes the full breakdown of the lists, by speciality, for the city’s two public hospitals. The lists include outpatients and inpatients/day cases.

The NTPF figures show there are 42,240 people on the waiting list for an outpatient appointment at GUH – that’s up around 8% from 39,184 one year ago.

Around 17% of those people are on the waiting list for 18 months or longer, up from 9% a year ago.

The outpatients list for GUH is the second worst in the country – only the Mater in Dublin has a longer list, with 44,478 people. The next longest lists are in UH Limerick at 35,749 and Tallaght Hospital at 32,656.

The longest waiting lists at Galway City’s two public hospitals are in the areas of orthopaedics (5,586 people); urology (3,740); ENT – Ear, Nose, Throat (3,225); neurology (3,011) and oral surgery (2,970).

For inpatient and day care cases (these are patients waiting for an appointment date for their treatment), GUH is making inroads on the waiting list. There are 8,918 on the waiting list, down 13% from 10,271 a year ago. A total of 1,142 (13%) are waiting 18+ months compared to 1,629 (16%) last year.

The longest waits were in the areas of orthopaedicas (1,297 people); plastic surgery (1,114); ophthamology (1,027); urology (926) and pain relief (886).

There are 104 people on the orthopaedics waiting list who have been waiting more than 18 months; 377 for plastic surgery and 37 on the ophthamology list.

The next longest inpatient list in the country is in Beaumont, with 6,044 people, followed by the Mater at 5,946 and UH Waterford at 5,459.

The NTPF figures also record those patients who have been given a scheduled date for their admission – these are categorised separately as ‘TCI’ (To Come In) – at the moment, there are 1,522 such cases in GUH.

Of these, 1,155 have been waiting less than three months to get their admission date; 154 between three and six months; 57 for six to nine months and 27 for more than 18 months.

There are 262 people at GUH who are waiting for a planned procedure – these are patients who have had a treatment and require additional treatment at a future date (for example, a patient who has had a scope and may require follow-up surveillance monitoring in the future).

Of these, 133 have been given an indicative date in the future and 47 with a date in the past.

Indicative dates are determined by the clinician and treatment before these dates is not regarded as appropriate.

There are 5,394 people waiting on a gastrointestinal endoscopy at GUH – 3,119 of these have been given an indicative date in the future and a further 2,138 with an indicative date in the past.

Reacting to the latest figures, Deputy Noel Grealish said that what was most disturbing was the 34% increase in just one year in the number of people waiting 18 months or more for treatment as an outpatient.

“To have almost 7,300 people, many of them no doubt in considerable pain, being forced to wait more than a year and half just to be seen by a consultant for the first time is simply unacceptable in 2019.

“While the overall outpatient waiting lists for treatment in Galway increased by 8% over the past year, the increase in long-term waits was many times that, up by more than one third of what the total was this time last year.

“That’s an increase, in the space of just a year, of more 1,800 patients waiting more than 18 months to get the treatment they need, people who may have had to put their lives on hold due to the severity of their conditions.”

Deputy Grealish said that one of the most striking increases in long-term waits was faced by people requiring dermatology treatment — their numbers jumped from just 40 in June 2018, to 615 now.

Other areas for which waiting times of 18 months or more had greatly increased over the past year include urology (+370), neurology (+244), general medicine (doubled with an increase of 182), while the numbers waiting long-term for plastic surgery increased from just two last year to 71 now.

“There seems to be a very disturbing trend developing here, particularly in certain specialities, of rapidly increasing long-term waits for treatment to which people are entitled,” said Deputy Grealish.

He added that one notable exception was in the area of rheumatology, where the numbers waiting 18-plus months had been halved, with a 210 reduction since last year. And he welcomed the fact that long-term waiting lists for inpatient treatment had reduced by 10% in Galway over the past year.

HSE blames industrial action for waiting list rise

According to a statement issued by the HSE’s Saolta Group to the Galway City Tribune, the NTPF figures showed a decrease in the number of patients waiting for inpatient or day case procedures in the Saolta Group between June 2018 and June 2019. At GUH, the number of patients waiting reduced from 10,271 to 8,919 and this included a reduction in the number of patients waiting 18+ months.

“However, the number of patients awaiting outpatient appointments increased in the past year. Capacity restrictions both from a clinical and a physical space point of view are two of the most significant challenges faced by GUH.

“In addition, there is continued growth in demand for outpatient services nationally with an increase of 4% referrals year on year and this year industrial action has adversely impacted outpatient services.

“We regret that patients have to wait for their appointments. Every effort is made to maximise capacity and to ensure timely access to treatment and care for our patients with additional clinics being set up as and when possible. We will continue to work with the NTPF on initiatives to deliver additional outpatient appointments in 2019.

“Initiatives to improve capacity at GUH include: In 2018/2019 additional clinics were set up for Plastic Surgery ‘see and treat’ and ENT and planning is underway for an ENT clinic and Dermatology; Physiotherapy Musculoskeletal (MSK) triage by Advanced Practice Physiotherapists who assess patients with soft tissue, bone or joint complaints. 70% of patients are seen and discharged with the remainder referred on to an Orthopaedic Surgeon or Rheumatologist. From January to May this year 1,184 patients were seen by this service.

“The hospital group is leading out nationally on the Urology Pathways of Care project addressing three prioritised areas: Haematuria, Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) and Incontinence management. The direct access ‘one stop’ haematuria service at Roscommon University Hospital is being piloted with a view to reducing waiting times to less than nine months and to free up capacity in GUH.

“The development of Advanced Nurse Practitioners to run their own clinics which provides additional capacity. Text reminders are used to reduce the number of patients who do not turn up. Validation of the waiting lists in GUH is also carried out by the National Validation Unit,” the HSE statement reads.

The inpatient and outpatient waiting lists for UHG and Merlin Park


Salthill will NOT have one-way traffic under new cycleway plans



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Salthill will not be reduced to one-way traffic under plans for the new cycleway along the Promenade, following the intervention of the National Transport Authority in the controversy.

It was confirmed yesterday (Thursday) that a design is now being considered to “ensure the widest support possible”.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council – which recently created cycleways in Dublin – will now be involved in the design process.

Last September, city councillors voted in favour of creating a two-way segregated cycle lane along the coastal side of the Prom from Grattan Road to Blackrock as a six-month trial.

However, it subsequently emerged that this would involve introducing one-way traffic along the Prom, with the outbound lane closed to make way for bicycles – this information has not been presented to councillors as they decided to vote on the cycle lane without any prior discussion.

Galway West TD and Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, subsequently asked the National Transport Authority (NTA) to intervene in the row.

“As a result of a meeting held last week between the NTA and the City Council, I can confirm that both parties are working to review proposals that will meet the objectives of the [City Council] motion while also looking to retain two-way traffic,” she said.

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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Criminal Assets Bureau targets two Galway families



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Garda raids at seven locations on the east side of the city earlier this week were aimed at ‘hitting in the pocket’ two families alleged to be heavily involved in the drugs trade, the Galway City Tribune has learned.

Close to 100 personnel from different Garda and Customs specialist units were involved in the searches of residences in the Castle Park and Radharc na Gréine estates early on Tuesday morning.

According to Garda sources, they are confident that the raids – which also involved the seizure of a 191 Audi car worth an estimated €45,000+ in the Garryowen area of Limerick – will lead to arrests over the coming weeks and months.

Files have already started to be prepared for forwarding to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) in relation to the seizures on Tuesday which included €22,000 in cash; £4,450 in sterling; a range of high-value designer goods, as well as the freezing of €17,000 in a bank account.

Searches carried out prior to this week’s operation by specialist Garda units had resulted in the seizure of €18,680 in cash and the freezing of bank accounts to the value of €66,000. Two Rolex watches were also seized – these items have a value which can range between €10,000 and €100,000 each.

The strategy behind the CAB/Garda crackdown on illegal drugs gangs is based on striking at the finances of the local drug barons – as well as the seizure of cash/goods and the freezing of bank accounts, Revenue are closely involved in the ‘monitoring of income’ of the gang members with a view to issuing substantial tax bills.

Detective Superintendent Shane Cummins, who is in charge of crime operations in the Galway Garda Division, said this week’s searches were part of an ongoing operation aimed at tackling the sale and supply of illegal drugs across the city and county.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read more on the raids and Garda Asset Profilers, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Cyberattack leaves HSE in the dark on children’s mental health in Galway



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The full extent of the waiting list for community mental health services for children is unknown because of the cyberattack on the HSE.

There were 48 young people in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon on a waiting list last March for the community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), according to the HSE.

Most of them were waiting less than 12 weeks, and seven of them were waiting between 12 and 26 weeks.

This is relatively good compared to other Community Healthcare Organisations in other parts of the country – the West made up just 2% of the 2,384 children nationally who were waiting for CAMHS referrals.

But the HSE has conceded that the data is not up to date – and so the full extent of waiting list in the West is not known.

“As a result of the recent cyberattack on HSE systems, the latest set of full data for the number of children waiting to be seen by CAMHS is from March 2021,” said Jim Ryan, Assistant National Director of the National Mental Health Services.

Mr Ryan was responding to a Parliamentary Question submitted by Galway West TD, Noel Grealish (Ind) and supplied to the Galway City Tribune.

He said that CAMHS provides specialist mental health care to children aged up to 18, “who have met the threshold for a diagnosis of moderate to severe mental health disorder that requires the input of a multi-disciplinary mental health teams”.

(Photo: The CAMHS unit at Merlin Park)

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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