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Hospital group cuts overspend – but still faces a €24m shortfall by end of the year



The Galway and Roscommon hospital group – now expanded to manage facilities in Letterkenny, Sligo and Mayo – faces a predicted budget overrun of €24m by the end of year. That’s down from €35m for the smaller group of four last year.

Now known as the West North West Hospitals Group, which will be managed by CEO Bill Maher as well as the newly appointed regional director of performance and integration, Gerry O’Neill, the improved financial position is due to increased funding, savings on wages to be achieved under the Haddington Road agreement, a cut in overtime and other cost cuts.

Wages for agency nursing staff had fallen by €600,000 in the last eight months while overtime costs had reduced by €1.17m. There was a €2.95m decrease across the expanded group of hospitals compared to the same time last year.

Of the €20m budget overspend to the end of August, €11m was attributable to University Hospital Galway, Merlin Park, Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals, Mr Maher told this week’s Regional Health Forum West.

UHG was constrained in its ability to generate income from private patients as it had an undersupply of en suite single rooms, and those that were there were reserved for patients who needed to be isolated due to infections.

The group had been given the go-ahead to build a new wing of single occupancy rooms, which would allow the hospital to charge more for its services.

Chairman Padraig Conneely said he was forced once again to highlight the outstanding debt from insurance companies due to the failure of consultants to sign off on claim forms. It was now at €10.6m, with €260,000 owed from one consultant’s patients.

“We’re raising this for years, these well paid consultants refusing to cooperate. We were told by the Department of Health they were bringing in new regulations so the hospital would be able to sign off. Do they want to retain their all-powerful position in hospital,” he fumed.

However Mr Maher refuted the suggestion that nothing was being done to recoup the money, pointing out that the debt had decreased by €2m in half a year.

“It’s not about upper hands. It has come down and you have to recognise that,” he retorted to Cllr Conneely. “And the day that it comes right down you will also have to acknowledge that.”

There was an even more heated exchange between the two when Cllr Conneely recounted his experience in raising the concerns of a patient who had made several unsuccessful attempts to get a lung biopsy.

After contacting the hospital, his calls were returned by a consultant who told him how dare he contact the hospital or the consultant on behalf of a patient.

“After a long conversation he told me to stick to politics and he would stick to medicine. This patent was given a date for a biopsy, it was never carried out because a bed wasn’t available. Then he gets a letter a few days later with an appointment to discuss the results of the biopsy that he never had. It’s absolute incompetence,” he insisted.

For more on this story, see the current edition of the Connacht Tribune


Elective surgeries cancelled at UHG as overcrowding continues



Galway Bay fm newsroom – Some non-urgent elective surgeries are being cancelled at UHG in a bid to tackle severe overcrowding at the city hospital.

It follows the issuing of a warning from the Saolta Hospital Group that the emergency department is extremely busy and there is ongoing pressure on bed availability.

General Manager at UHG, Chris Kane, says over 500 people presented at the hospital on Monday and Tuesday.

She says the overcrowding situation is very serious, particularly in relation to the ED, the Surgical Unit and the Acute Medical Assessment Unit.

Members of the public are urged to only attend the hospital in the case of emergency, and contact their GP or out-of-hours service if their health problem is not urgent.

Saolta is also reminding the public that the Injury Unit at Roscommon University Hospital is open from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week, to treat adults and children over 5.

Speaking to Keith Finnegan on Galway Talks, Chris Kane said the current level of patients presenting is extremely high and “unusual” for this time of year.

She also noted there’s also been a rise in patients being treated for Covid-19, including in the ICU.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway rowers aim for Olympic gold!



Best of luck to two Galway rowers – Aifric Keogh of Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, and Fiona Murtagh from Gortachalla in Moycullen – who are part of Team Ireland’s Women’s Coxless Fours team who compete in an Olympic final in Tokyo at 1.50am (Irish time) Wednesday.

Coverage on RTÉ 2 television begins from 1am.

Ireland – who were second in their heat after Australia, who set a new Olympic Record – are in lane two, with Great Britain on their outside, and Australia, favourites for a gold medal, in lane three.

The Netherlands, China and Poland are in lanes four, five and six at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Poor weather meant some rowing events were re-scheduled but the Women’s Fours final was not impacted.

Jim Keogh, Aifric’s father, told the Tribune he was hopeful ahead of the final.

“To make the Olympics is tough, to make the final is tough, to make the medal is tougher,” he said.
Photo: Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty.

*Full coverage of the race and reaction in this week’s Connacht Tribune and Galway City Tribune 

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Connacht Tribune

Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison



A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.

Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.

The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.

A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.

At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.

They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.

Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.

The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.

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