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CITY TRIBUNE

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

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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

CITY TRIBUNE

Saving on school books

Dara Bradley

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Secondary school students struggling with back-to-school costs, or looking for a bargain, can shave as much as 40% off the cost of school books – if they buy second hand.

And The Book Exchange on Lower Abbeygate Street in Galway City will even buy back good-quality school books, which it then re-sells.

“You typically can get 40% off the retail value of books if you shop with us. We generally say that if you spend €100 on new books, they’d be €60 here,” said Gary Healy of The Book Exchange.

It doesn’t stock a full-range of books, like Eason’s or other new school book retailers, but it caters well for Senior cycle students in secondary school in particular.

“Most of the fifth year and sixth year books are here, whether it’s maths such as Active Maths 4, Active Maths 3 or Irish books like Fuinneamh Nua. We have a lot of language books and a lot of the optional subjects. In general, almost all the firth and sixth year secondary school curriculum can be got second hand. With the Junior Cert, it’s only a couple of subjects that are available and it depends on the school. English books at Junior Cert can be gotten second-hand, and then sometimes the optional subjects like woodwork, tech graphics, music,” he said.

The Book Exchange will go through the booklist with the students or parents, although customers are advised to get in touch in advance.

“I’d advise anybody to stick a nose in to us with a list, or even give us a ring, or an email. We’re always happy to go down through the list with people, and walk them through it because one of the biggest things that can be a problem with the school book list, is when it specifies a book for a parent to get, it could say ‘new edition’ but in many cases ‘new edition’ just means it’s called the new edition, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s new. It could be 10 years after and it would still be called the ‘new edition’.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Changes to garda structure require ‘feet on the ground’

Francis Farragher

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STRUCTURAL changes in Garda management – which will see the current Western Region merged with the Northern area – need to be backed up with ‘feet on the ground’, according to the Chairperson of the city’s Joint Policing Committee.

Cllr Niall McNelis said he also had concerns over the impact that a reduction in Garda Superintendents and Chief Superintendents could have on the management of the force across the Galway region.

“I know that the stated intention of the Commissioner [Drew Harris] is to increase the frontline presence of Gardaí but this cannot be achieved without more feet on the ground.

“There also has to be concerns over an apparent lack of consultation on the changes with Garda Superintendents who really play a key role in managing the Garda resources at local level,” said Cllr McNelis.

He added that in the aftermath of the financial crash in Ireland, Garda resources – both in terms of personnel and equipment – had taken a huge hit, with this ‘lost ground’ still not being made up.

“The bottom line in all of this is: will we see more Gardaí on the beat; more Gardaí operating at local level and in touch with local people; and also a management structure that’s in touch with local communities?” Cllr McNelis asked.

One of the major changes announced by Commissioner Drew Harris is a reduction in the number of national Garda regions across the country from six to four, each one under the control of an Assistant Commissioner.  The Western Garda Region – that had consisted of Galway, Clare, Roscommon/Longford and Mayo – will now be merged into one region amalgamating with the North.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Traffic gridlock – specialist traffic control operator at City Hall among proposed solutions

Francis Farragher

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THE city came close to complete gridlock on last Tuesday with a combination of minor accidents, roadworks, visitor numbers, an influx of shoppers and bad weather, making it a nightmare afternoon and evening for motorists.

Eyre Square, College Road, Lough Atalia, the Moneenagheisha junction and the dual-carriageway leading up to the Briarhill traffic-lights, endured the most severe clog-ups, but commuters across the city reported long delays from lunchtime through to the later evening period.

Former Mayor of Galway and taxi-operator, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that by early afternoon he had to abandon his efforts to continue working.

“I know that there was a huge volume of traffic in the city due to back-to-school shoppers and there were also reports of a number of minor accidents, but I still think that we can do better in terms of managing the flow of vehicles.

“The roadworks in Bohermore were no help and there were reports of a number of minor accidents but we also have real problems with parking and signage issues in the city.

“And most of all, we need a hands-on specialist traffic control operator – experienced and skilled in traffic management – in the control room at City Hall, to monitor flows at all our key junctions,” said Cllr Fahy.

Public transport also got completely bogged down in the Tuesday evening snarl-up with bus commuters from the city to Oranmore reporting a journey time of close on one hour and 20 minutes.

Buses took up to 20 minutes to make it from their stops in Eyre Square to even get onto College Road which had almost ground to a complete standstill at around 5.30pm.

Another motorist told the Galway City Tribune that his journey time from Forster Street to the Briarhill junction was one hour and 50 minutes on Tuesday evening – 4.10pm to 6pm.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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