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Helping smokers quit cost HSE €2.5m over five years



Galway smokers with medical cards cost the Health Service Executive (HSE) more than €2.5 million over five years for chewing gum and nicotine patches to help them to kick the habit.

New figures reveal the HSE coughed-up €500,000 on average each year since 2011 for prescriptions for therapies and medications for the treatment of nicotine addiction. The prescriptions were dispensed by GPs in the county to patients covered by free healthcare schemes.

These include nicotine patches, chewing gum, nasal sprays, and lozenges; as well as the prescription medication Champix, which has the effect of reducing cravings.

These products were added to the list of reimbursable items by the HSE to encourage smokers to quit in 2001. They are available to medical-card holders, and patients covered by the Drugs Payment Scheme (DPS) and Long-Term Illness (LTI) scheme.

The most commonly prescribed products include Nicorette gum, Nicorette inhaler, Nicorette transdermal patches, and Nicorette nasal spray.

According to research, nicotine is responsible for the dependence of regular smokers on cigarettes.

Prescriptions for Champix were also dispensed by GPs to help combat smokers’ urges. This is used to treat addiction by weakly stimulating nicotine receptors. It is said to reduce cravings for cigarettes and decrease the pleasurable effects that users get from smoking.

The cost of providing these products to medical card holders in Galway was €592,000 in 2011; €600,000 in 2012; €526,000 in 2013; €444,000 in 2014; and €409,000 in 2015.

Meanwhile, prescription drugs used for treatment of alcoholism among Galway’s medical card holders has cost the HSE almost €125,000 over five years.

A total of 5,370 prescriptions were issued by GPs for drugs for the treatment of alcohol and drug dependency under the medical card scheme in the city and county between 2011 and 2015.

Some 5,161 of the prescriptions related to drugs typically used for the treatment of alcohol.

The drugs prescribed to help alcohol-dependent patients included Antabuse, which treats chronic alcoholism by producing an acute sensitivity to alcohol. This results in an immediate ‘hangover’ effect, causing nausea, headaches, thirst, and weakness.

Meanwhile, a further 209 prescriptions were issued for Nalorex, which is a long term treatment for addiction to opioids.

In Galway, the cost of the drugs amounted to €25,000 on average each year for treating alcoholism among medical card holders.

Nationally, the total cost to the taxpayer of treatment of alcoholism among medical card holders was in excess of €1.2 million over five years.

The data was supplied by the HSE following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway



The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base



The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.


Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number



Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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