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

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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

Connacht Tribune

Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team

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Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.

The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.

Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.

Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.

“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.

It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.

“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”

She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.

“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.

There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.

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Connacht Tribune

Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78

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Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.

Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968

As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.

From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.

When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.

Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.

A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.

Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later

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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí appeal for help to locate missing man

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Gardaí are seeking help from the public in locating a 66-year-old man who has been missing from Clonbur since Thursday.

Michael Harte is described as being 5’ 9” in height, of slim build with short grey hair. When last seen, he was wearing blue jeans, a blue jumper, a tan / khaki padded jacket and tan boots.

He is understood to have access to a black Renault Megane with a 02 C registration.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Clifden Garda Station on 095 2250,  the Garda confidential line on 1800 666111 or any Garda station.

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