The threat of strike action at the Acute Psychiatric Unit at University Hospital Galway (UHG) looks set to be averted next week if management follow through on an undertaking to appoint eight new permanent nurses.
Psychiatric nurses at the unit were informed on Wednesday that management are seeking clearance to appoint eight new nurses, eight days after 83% of them voted in favour of industrial action.
The swift move by management to address staffing issues at the 45-bed unit in the wake of the ballot looks set to avert the threat of strike action by members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA).
“It would go some way towards addressing our concerns,” said PNA spokesman Michael Hayes on Wednesday.
“If management live up to what they told us today, it looks as though action can be averted.
“The branch felt they had no option but to ballot for industrial action. This had nothing to do with money, or terms and conditions. It had everything to do with the safety of staff and patients.”
Mr Hayes said the number of psychiatric nurses employed by the HSE across the State had deteriorated by 17% due to the moratorium on recruitment. He urged management to employ some of the new nurses who are due to graduate in Galway in September.
“We would argue that as many new nurses as possible be kept on,” he said.
“In Galway, we will have a number of retirements in the services in the coming years. Hopefully, management will follow through on their promises and bring in new graduates.”
Concerns over mental health services at UHG grew following the closure of a 22-bed unit in Ballinasloe earlier this year, which resulted in patients being transferred to Galway.
The ballot for strike action concluded on Tuesday of last week and the result could have seen psychiatric nurses on the picket lines as early as next week. A
spokesperson for the HSE (West) said staffing levels were “constantly reviewed” by clinicians and numbers would be increased depending on the number of patients.
Interviews were held last week to appoint eight new staff to the Acute Unit as an interim solution, with seven nurses presenting to an interview panel. The first of these successful candidates took up employment this week.
Confirmation of the eight new appointments – confirmed to the PNA last Friday and again this week – appears to have averted the threat of strike action.
Pedestrian seriously injured in Furbo hit and run
A man in his 40s is in a serious condition in hospital following a hit and run in Furbo last night.
He was a pedestrian who was walking on the R336 road near Furbo Church, when he was hit by a car around 8.30pm.
The driver of the car failed to remain at the scene.
The road is currently closed with diversions in place while Garda Forensic Collision Investigators conduct an examination of the scene.
Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to the collision to come forward, particularly any road users who may have dash-cam footage recorded in the area between 8pm and 9pm.
Drug use in Galway at ‘frightening levels’ says top Garda
Use of illegal drugs has reached ‘fairly frightening’ levels across the city and county, according to Galway’s top Garda.
Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said that only about 10% of the drugs in circulation in society are detected by Gardaí.
He said that there had been increases in detection of drugs for sale or supply and for simple possession in the city and county so far this year.
Cocaine in particular was an issue in Galway, he said, but increased drug use was evident in “every village and town in the country”.
In his report to the latest Galway City Joint Policing Committee, Chief Supt Curley said that there had been a 22% increase in detection of drugs for sale or supply in Galway, up 14 to 78 at the end of September.
There had been 108 incidents of drugs for simple possession, up by 15%.
The amount of cocaine seized in the first nine months of the year amounted to €538,838. The level of cannabis seized amounted to €361,872.
Ecstasy (€640) and heroin (€2,410) were also seized, according to the Garda report.
Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) said it was a concern that cocaine had overtaken cannabis for the first time, in terms of the street value of the amounts seized.
Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) said that the Garda Drugs Unit needed to be commended for the seizures.
Councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) said it was concerning that use of cocaine had escalated.
In response to Chair of the JPC, Councillor Niall McNelis (Lab), Chief Supt Curley said there were some instances where parents or siblings were being pursued by criminals over drug debts accrued by family members.
He added he would continue to allocate resources to the drugs problem.
Up to 20-week waiting period for youth mental health service in Galway
Young people in Galway have highest waiting times in the state for an appointment with the Jigsaw youth mental health service.
That’s according to Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell who revealed that waiting times for an appointment here are currently up to 20 weeks.
“Figures released through a Parliamentary Question have shown there are significant wait times for counselling appointments with Jigsaw, the mental health service which provides vital supports to young people, in Galway,” she said.
“Demand for the Jigsaw service in Galway and across the State continues to grow, however, as a result youths are waiting up to 20 weeks to get an appointment. With young people from Galway currently experiencing the longest wait times at 20 weeks.
“Every expert in child and adolescent mental health will tell you that early intervention is absolutely vital in avoiding enduring and worsening problems in the future.
“Yet, these figures reveal that if a child or young person seeks out care they are in all likelihood going to be faced with extended waiting periods which are simply unacceptable and put them and their mental health at a very serious risk,” she added.
Deputy Farrell said that young peoples’ mental health had been adversely affected during the pandemic – with loss of schooling, sports, peer supports and even their ability to socialise with friends impacting.
“Jigsaw have experienced a 42% increase in the demand for their services and this cry for help from our young people cannot fall on deaf ears,” she said.
“There is also an element of postcode politics, that depending on where you live you may get treated quicker. Some areas have a three-week waiting time while others are left waiting for 20 weeks.
“Uniformed mental health treatment is needed – so our young people can access the care they need, when they need it and where they need it.
“I have called on the Minister to urgently engage with the service to provide a solution,” she concluded.