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CITY TRIBUNE

HSE under fire for hiring debt collection agencies

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University Hospital Galway spent more than €60,000 on debt collection agencies last year to pursue patients who owe money.

The spending has been branded “outrageous” by Sinn Féin in Galway, who said that many people are not in a position to pay hospital bills.

Figures released by the HSE show that the Garwyn Group was paid €54,373 for debt collection services relating to UHG in 2018, while another company, Intrum Justitia Ireland Ltd, was paid €9,211.

Nationally, the HSE spent more than 574,000 last year on debt collection.

Galway West General Election candidate for Sinn Féin, Mairéad Farrell said: “The threatening use of debt collection agencies by University Hospital Galway to chase down late payments or bills of patients who cannot afford to pay is outrageous.

“It is an incredibly regressive measure. I was genuinely shocked to hear the amount of money spent in this manner in Galway and across Ireland.

“Figures obtained by the Irish Sun have shown that UHG spent a staggering €63,584 on debt collection agencies in 2018, the second highest figure for any hospital in the state.

“In total €574,207 was paid to these companies by a range of hospitals last year.

“I don’t believe that our hospitals should be engaged in the use of private debt collection agencies to harass and threaten patients, many of whom are not in a position to pay these bills.

“While some people deliberately dodge paying these charges, the majority of people who don’t pay them can’t pay them, and I know from my experience that many are elderly people.

“For the hospital to sell the debts to a private debt collection agency who hound and threaten patients with court action if they don’t pay up is really not on.

“These are paltry sums of money, and while I believe that these charges should be abolished, until they are abolished, hospitals need to adopt a more compassionate and fair way to recover these charges.

“These are sick people or people recovering from illness and they must be treated accordingly,” said the former city councillor.

CITY TRIBUNE

Huge reward for ‘dognap’ – as canine companion dies of broken heart

Denise McNamara

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James with Biggy, Poopie and Little One

Galway City Tribune – Galway’s most famous dog, Biggy the Irish Wolfhound, has “died of a broken heart” after his Jack Russell best mate was the victim of a suspected ‘dognap’ – which led to the owner putting up a €20,000 reward.

Following a social media campaign which went viral, Biggy was famously reunited with his family 11 days after he went missing in 2013. He was discovered on the motorway outside Athenry.

Nine years later, James Leopold Mechels has erected hundreds of posters all over the city and suburbs in a desperate bid to find the ageing Jack Russell he calls ‘Little One’.

The Belgian native recently increased a reward for the return of his beloved pooch from €1,000 to €20,000. But so far, no credible sightings have been made.

“He’s been missing for 3,288 hours – 137 days, I’m so exhausted, so upset, so anxious. I’ve stopped working to focus all of my effort into finding him. I’ve cycled all over the city, I’ve driven to the horse fair in Ballinasloe,” James told the Galway City Tribune this week.
This is a preview only. To read more of James’ story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

■ Anybody with information is asked to call 087 0650678 or Ark Vets on 091 584185.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Row deepens over Tiny Traders market

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Galway City Tribune – The row between the Tiny Traders Village and Galway Arts Centre – the operators of Nuns’ Island Theatre – deepened this week as the Arts Centre announced its intentions to open its own market on the site.

Manager of the Tiny Traders Village, Paul David Murphy, has claimed this was proof that it was always Galway Arts Centre, and its Managing Director, Páraic Breathnach’s, intention to “force” them out, adding that he had felt under constant threat of being shut down.

“It did come as a bit of a shock, but it was something I was expecting,” said Mr Murphy of a post on social media announcing that a new market would open.

“It’s now obvious that they were trying to get rid of us and I can’t believe how transparent they’ve been. Up until this point, there had been a little degree of mystery as to why this happened. It’s sad because the Tiny Traders Village was working really well.”

This comes following a decision by the Tiny Traders to cease trading two weeks ago, citing changes that Galway Arts Centre had requested that Mr Murphy said would have made his business “unviable”.

Speaking to the Galway City Tribune this week, Páraic Breathnach confirmed that they had requested changes – involving layout alterations and clearance – but this had been done due to health and safety concerns.

“There were changes requested to comply with fire regulations, safety and health. They were in relation to the blocking of pathways, the blocking of fire exits, clearance between stalls and the affixing of canopies to a listed building,” said Mr Breathnach.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for Gardaí to confiscate vehicles involved in fly-tipping

Francis Farragher

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Children's toys, a bed and a cot amongst an illegal dumping site in Ballybane

Galway City Tribune –  confiscation of vehicles – and driver disqualification – have been sought by a Galway TD and a local councillor for those involved in illegal dumping.

According to Independent TD, Noel Grealish and Independent councillor, Noel Larkin, illegal dumping on the east side of Galway City has now reached ‘an all-time high’.

Last week, Deputy Grealish and Cllr Larkin, met with Climate Action and Environment Minister, Richard Bruton, to seek new measures cracking down on those involved in illegal dumping.

“I asked Minister Bruton to introduce legislation that would result in driver disqualification for persons convicted of illegal dumping while using a vehicle. I am also seeking for the introduction of legislation that will give judges the power to order the confiscation of vehicles used for illegal dumping,” said Deputy Grealish.

The Gardaí and Galway City and Council Councils have now been asked to establish an ‘all-county initiative’ to tackle the problem.

This year, Galway City Council was allocated just €50,000 from a €7.4m Government fund to tackle illegal dumping – the lowest figure of any local authority in the country.
This is a preview only. For extensive coverage of the illegal dumping issue, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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