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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


Gardaí raid cocaine lab in Galway City

Enda Cunningham



Some of the cash and drugs seized by Gardaí in Galway

Two men have been arrested following a Garda raid in which a cocaine laboratory was discovered in Galway City.

In total, Gardaí seized €178,500 in cash, €50,000 worth of cocaine (subject to analysis) and a number of drug manufacturing components as part of an intelligence-led operation into the sale and supply of drugs in the Galway Garda Division.

At 7.40pm yesterday (Sunday) the Divisional Drugs Unit in Galway stopped and searched a car on the M6 motorway in the vicinity of Loughrea where €17,580 worth of cash was seized.

As part of a follow-up search, Gardaí uncovered what is believed to be a cocaine processing laboratory and seized cocaine (pending analysis) with an estimated value of €50,000 at an address in Galway City.

At this address, Gardaí seized a quantity of mixing agent, a cocaine press, vacuum packer, industrial gas masks, and a cash counting machine, which are believed to have been used in the manufacture of cocaine for sale or supply.

In a further follow-up search, Gardaí seized €161,000 in cash at a separate premises in the city.

One man in his 20s was arrested following the detection on the M6, while a second man in his 30s was arrested at a property in Galway City.

Both men are currently detained at Galway Garda Station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drugs Trafficking) Act 1996.

These seizures were part of an intelligence led operation and were detected by the Galway Divisional Drugs Unit with the assistance of the Western Regional Armed Support Unit.

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“It will be akin to the notorious Rahoon flats”

Enda Cunningham



The Rahoon flats, which were built in 1972 and demolished in 1998, widely regarded as a failed social housing project.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – More than 700 local residents have signed a petition against plans for the construction of 330 apartments in Knocknacarra – which have been likened to “the notorious Rahoon flats”.

Child safeguarding concerns have also been raised by the principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh – who pointed out that the apartments will look directly into 19 classrooms.

A total of 27 objections were lodged against Glenveagh Living’s plans to build 332 apartments in six blocks – ranging from four storeys to seven storeys in height.

Locals have demanded An Bord Pleanála hold an oral hearing into the plans – that planning authority is due to make a decision by March 20, although it can decide to hold such a hearing first.

A computer-generated image of the Glenveagh plans for the site opposite Gort na Bró and beside Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh.

One of the objections – which accuses the developer of designing “tenement style” homes in a “blatant attempt to profiteer from the housing crisis” – was signed by more than 700 local residents.

Another objector said the development was “akin to the notorious Rahoon flats, with people being packed on top of each other”.

Locals have raised concerns about the huge number of apartments planned; overshadowing of homes; inadequate open space, playing pitches and community infrastructure; parking and traffic problems; low quality of design and road safety.

Glenveagh Living did not respond to a request from the Galway City Tribune for comment.
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the Glenveagh plans and objections, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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Arts fraternity rallies as Theo faces deportation

Denise McNamara



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Less than a year after being invited by the Arts Council to perform at a conference about diversity in the arts, a musician, DJ and rapper – who is about to embark on a project for Galway 2020 – is facing deportation.

Theophilus Ndlovu left Zimbabwe after what he claims was a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to mind him.

His mother left when he was just six years old and he never met his father. He was placed in the care of an unofficial foster family but it was never a happy arrangement.

“These people I stayed with were abusing me. They were never my family. I was running away from persecution and abuse and the way I was treated by these people. I had to fend for myself since I was ten years old,” he recalls.

When Theo was 20, he saved up enough money from mowing lawns and selling chickens to escape, arriving in Ireland where he sought asylum. Authorities placed him in a Direct Provision Centre in Finglas for a fortnight before he was transferred to the Great Western Direct Provision Centre off Eyre Square, where he has remained for nearly four years.

Almost immediately, Theo felt at home.

“This is my family. Galway is where I found my voice. It has become my home. It is just where I’m meant to be.”

Theo has immersed himself in the arts community and has become a leading hip-hop artist, known as Touché, performing regularly at venues such as the Róisín Dubh and the Black Gate. He was instrumental in getting fellow asylum seekers and refugees involved in music collaborations.

He is a founding member of the multicultural music project ‘Atmos Collective’ and has facilitated numerous music workshops in Galway, “teaching, motivating and inspiring hundreds of young people along the way”, according to co-founder Alice McDowell, an Australian filmmaker and fiddler.

The collective was recently granted funding by the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 committee to host community music workshops in the city and county over the next year as part of their ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ scheme.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

The petition is available online HERE

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