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Hospital chief expresses her fears for future in parting shot

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Date Published: 17-Sep-2009

A disturbing picture of the health services in Galway has been painted by the retiring manager of University Hospital Galway – she predicts savage cutbacks allied to significant job losses.
Ward and theatre closures, waiting lists increasing by more than 2,000, the decimation of cancer services, the loss of 126 staff and a downgrading of the intensive care unit are among the shocking predictions.
In a written submission to the HSE chief, Bridget Howley, who has worked in the health services in Galway for the past 40 years, provides a grim assessment of how the cuts will impact.
The budgets for the two Galway hospitals have been cut by a staggering €22 million and already there is an €8 million overspend.
While the HSE concede that there is an overspend and that less money is available, the Executive insists that patients are still receiving the same level of care.
But Bridget Howley, who is due to retire as manager of UCH shortly, offered a very different perspective of how patients will be affected by the swinging cuts.
In the memo to Brendan Drumm, she says that the cuts will result in the closure of two wards – a total of 60 beds – while 70 beds had already been closed. This represents 17% of the total number of hospital beds.
But more controversially, she claimed that UHG would no longer be able to function as one of the eight designated cancer centres – the so-called centres of excellence.
Ms. Howley said that the cutbacks would result in reduced access to complex, specialist cancer surgery for the region. This means that patients requiring urgent surgery could experience crucial delays.
But Oliver McEnenna, Director of Cancer Services at UHG, said that it was a centre of specialisation as opposed to a centre of excellence and added that it provided the highest possible care for cancer patients.
He explained that ten years ago there were no radiotherapy services in Galway but over the past three years a “seamless” service had been provided.
“Prior to that patients travelled to Dublin usually at their own expense. It was undignified, it was wrong and it was unfair. Now we have almost 500 new breast cancer cases being treated in this country compared to 100, a decade ago”, Mr. McEnenna said.
He said that the staff in the cancer care unit were working hard to provide the best level of care for the patients.
“Either we get support from our political colleagues to improve the services we provide, if we don’t then the patients in the west of Ireland will have no choice but to go to Dublin for treatment”, he warned.
But Cllr. Padraic Conneely who is Chairman of the HSE West Regional Forum said that the bottom line of what Ms. Howley was saying was that patients would die.
“It is plain and simple that cuts will mean that cancer patients will not get the treatment they need when they need it. It deserves a public inquiry”, Cllr. Conneely said.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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

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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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