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Growing fears UHG cancer services may be withdrawn



Date Published: 06-Jul-2012

By Dara Bradley

There are growing fears that oesophageal and stomach cancer services provided at Galway University Hospital, a designated ‘cancer centre of excellence’, could be withdrawn this year.

The plan under consideration by the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) would force hundreds of cancer patients in Galway and the West of Ireland to travel to Dublin every year for treatment.

At the moment, nationally, there are four regional units with the expertise that are designated to provide specialist care for patients with cancer of the oesophagus including Galway, Cork and two Dublin hospitals, Beaumont and St James’.

It was proposed in 2007 by NCCP that the number of specialist delivery care centres be halved to just two, although this recommendation wasn’t acted upon, until now.

A committee set-up last year by NCCP to decide on the future of oesophageal cancer services is understood to have reached agreement and in the coming weeks will be formally recommending to the Minister for Health, James Reilly, that the Galway and Cork facilities be withdrawn.

Surgeons and consultants at GUH fear that the prop

osal to withdraw Galway and Cork and concentrate specialist cancer care in the two Dublin hospitals would result in patients in Galway and the West of Ireland being forced to commute to Dublin for investigation and treatment of stomach and oesophageal cancers.

The Galway centre also investigates and treats patients with non-cancerous conditions such as stomach ulcers and heartburn.

The Minister is expected to come under severe political pressure from patient groups and cancer charities in the West and South, as well as healthcare professionals, to reject any recommendation from NCCP to withdraw this cancer service from the regions.

Withdrawing the Galway specialist centre would exacerbate the ‘Dublin bias’ but could also result in several million Euros of GUH’s budget being transferred to the Dublin hospitals.

A Health Service Executive (HSE) West spokesperson yesterday referred all queries to the National Cancer Control Programme.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, a spokesperson at the NCCP offices in Dublin, said NCCP “is nearing the conclusion of the strategy for cancer services for upper gastrointestinal cancers”.

“There has been excellent input into the ongoing process from the clinicians in the four cancer centres which currently provide radical oesophageal surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. No decision has been announced,” it said.

The statement explained that oesophageal cancer is a “relatively uncommon cancer” which typically occurs in older patients, particularly those with a history of smoking.

The spokesperson said only a minority of patients are deemed suitable for radical treatment, as the cancer is often incurable at presentation or the patient is too frail for surgery.

“Putting it in perspective – on average, in Ireland, approximately 137 patients per year have been treated with curative intent and underwent oesophageal resection with or without chemotherapy and radiotherapy, of these, an average of 13 to 15 patients per year had surgery in Galway,” the statement added.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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