Hospitals pay huge sums to agency consultants
Public hospitals in Galway and Limerick are forking out exorbitant agency rates for consultants every year, the National Director of Acute Hospitals has conceded.
Dr Tony O’Connell confirmed to a Dáil committee on health that some 50 consultants, each costing agency rates of €300,000 a year, are being employed in Galway and Limerick.
Dr O’Connell said there were “huge challenges” in trying to attract consultants to deliver certain services at public hospitals in the west.
Responding to queries in relation to a Waterford hospital, Dr O’Connell said there are particular difficulties in the West in attracting consultants in areas such as dermatology.
“There are not enough dermatologists to do that rotation (in Waterford) at the moment. Certainly, patients can receive a consultation in other centres but currently there are not enough consultants to cover every hospital in the country for each of the potential sessions that are available. We are finding that we have to pay agency rates for a number of consultants nationally.
“For example, we are currently employing at least 50 consultants at a cost of €300,000 per annum to provide services in places like Limerick and Galway. There are huge challenges in attracting consultants to deliver these services and there is only so much work that individual consultants can do,” said Dr O’Connell.
In Waterford, and in the West, he said the health service is having difficulties with the recruitment of dermatologists.
“Clearly, we would like with the development of hospital groups to have a shared service across all of the hospitals within the group. However, that is limited by the absolute number of hours the consultants can provide.
“Nationally, especially in the middle and west of the country, there are challenges in getting consultants across a range of specialties. The plan is not to shrink the service but to provide the service that is possible within the context of the number of consultants available and employed,” added Dr O’Connell.
When he was appointed to the position in May, Dr O’Connell said costs at the State’s acute hospitals were running at “unsustainable” levels.
Farmers should engage on Galway-Athlone greenway consultation
Property owners and farmers impacted by the proposed Greenway route from Galway City to Athlone have been strongly advised to engage fully with the project team.
This week, four major public information days are being held in Oranmore, Gort, Portumna and Ballinasloe – with an open invitation issued to landowners and community representatives to attend.
Connacht IFA Chair, Pat Murphy from Ardrahan, told the Connacht Tribune, that any farmer or landowner affected by the Greenway route ‘should make it their business’ to engage fully with the project team.
He said that earlier this week, he had attended a Code of Practice meeting in Mullingar, aimed at ensuring that there was a full and comprehensive consultation process in place for affected landowners.
“I know that over the past year, many landowners weren’t happy with the level of engagement being undertaken by those involved with the project, but we are doing everything we can to change this.
“Get in there; meet those people behind the project; make sure your voice is heard; and don’t sit back to let things happen without being involved,” said Pat Murphy.
He added that a lot of potential problems could be ironed out through the consultation process with farmers and property owners now in a far better position to deal with issues than they were when the project was first mooted nearly a decade ago.
“We have also ensured that the services of a professional agronomist [Philip Farrelly] will be available to the landowners concerned, free of charge, and I would urge farmers to avail of this advice.
“As things stand, we have worked to ensure that any farm severances are kept to an absolute minimum – we have been assured that no severances will take place if at all possible,” said Pat Murphy.
The public information events (all 3pm to 8pm) began on Tuesday last in the Oranmore Lodge Hotel and continued in the Lady Gregory Hotel, Gort, yesterday (Wednesday).
Portumna Town Hall will host the event today (Thursday) while on Friday, the sessions conclude for the week in the Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe.
Last week, Project Co-ordinator, Michael Kelly [Westmeath County Council) urged anyone with an interest in the Greenway [officially called, ‘The Galway to Athlone Cycleway Project’] to attend one of the information sessions.
“Meeting one-to-one is best for all concerned so that issues can be discussed in-depth and possible solutions identified. Where feasible, the route has been amended to address issues identified in our meetings with landowners over the last two years,” said Michael Kelly.
He also stressed that the goodwill and co-operation of the farming community was important to make the cycleway a success – this involved real and open engagement with landowners and communities.
Galway IFA Environment Rep., Henry Walsh from Oranmore, said that Tuesday’s public information session in the Oranmore Lodge Hotel, seemed to have gone very well with a lot of engagement between landowners and the project officials.
“Where issues arise, many of these things can be sorted out with consultation and co-operation, but I would urge any landowner affected to engage, consult and to tease out any problems face-to-face with the project team.
“A lot of issues can be worked out and solutions found but engagement and consultation are the keys to this process. This is the way to go, and we certainly don’t want to hear any mention of CPOs (Compulsory Purchase Orders),” said Henry Walsh.
The Emerging Preferred Route (EPR) was published by the project team in late 2021 with a planning application to be lodge in Quarter 3 (July to September) of next year , after which an oral hearing will take place.
Action needed on rural GP crisis
The Government needs to come up with a financial package to induce GPs to work in rural areas across the country – with the lack of local doctors already impacting on the health of local communities in Galway.
Galway County Councillor Andrew Reddington made his call against the backdrop of a reality that sees so many rural doctors on the verge of retiring – with no one available to take on their practices.
Referring to his local town of Headford, the councillor said that one local doctor is retiring, and it was proving extremely difficult to find a replacement.
“There is a national shortage of GPs and rural areas are the worst hit. It is hard for a doctor to set up a practice in a rural area,” Cllr Reddington said.
He has been told there is ‘no quick fix’ to this situation due to shortages in GPs qualifying and it was also hard to attract qualified doctors to country areas. “The fact that one in seven working GPs are over 65 means many are retiring while others are leaving rural general practice due to the various other challenges,” he said.
“The situation is becoming so unattractive because of the workloads and the demand on their time.
“We are lucky to have two GPs in the town (Headford) who are working around the clock – but the area is vast and I received 20 direct calls this week alone on the impending retirement of a local doctor.”
He has approached Chief Officer for Community Healthcare West Breda Crehan Roche regarding the retirement of a GP position in his local area.
He has been informed that the position has been advertised and interviews will be held in the next few weeks, if eligible applications are received for the position.
“This will come as a relief for many patients, but we will have to wait until the interview process is complete before we can inform the public where the new doctor will be based,” he added.
County Galway hurling club offers beast of a prize!
A GAA club in County Galway is offering a beast of a first prize in a fundraising raffle – because top prize in Tynagh-Abbey/Duniry’s Easter Draw is Bluebell, a two-year-old U-grade heifer.
A club spokesman said that – as a rural club they are fortunate to have experienced farmers in the locality – and that’s what they went for expert opinion.
“Having searched the countryside we were lucky to find this U-grade 23-month-old Parthenaise-cross Belgian blue commercial breeding heifer “Bluebell” in Tynagh,” he said.
As it turned out, it was owned by club member Ian Dervan and he was delighted to help his local club. “Ian has been paying great attention to the grooming, pampering and feeding of the heifer,” said the spokesman.
That said, if you’ve no heart for a heifer, there’s a cash alternative of €2,500, plus five other super prizes. Funds from this draw will be used for the maintenance, upkeep and insurance of the local community pitches, the AstroTurf, the Duniry training area and Centre, Tynagh clubhouse and the recently refurbished club members’ gym.
Tickets are available on the Tynagh Abbey/Duniry Hurling Facebook page, club members and local shops. The draw takes place on Easter Sunday Night in the Cross Bar, Duniry at 10.30pm.