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CITY TRIBUNE

Mental health units in Merlin come under fire in new report

Denise McNamara

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An aerial view of the Merlin Park hospital campus.

Aspects of two Galway mental health units in Merlin Park were found to be substandard by the Mental Health Commission, which identified two areas of “critical non-compliance” with the regulations – the worst mark that can be issued by the regulator.

The inspection of Woodview – a 21-bed unit in Merlin Park University Hospital – had one critical risk rating for premises and one high-risk rating for ordering, prescribing, storing and administration of medicines.

Food safety audits were not carried out regularly, and hygiene was not adequately maintained to support food safety requirements. The area under the stainless steel kitchen units was dirty, and the kitchen required a deep clean.

The centre was in a poor state of repair – some external and bedroom lights were not working, a handle was missing on a wardrobe, a showerhead was out of order, there was cracked and peeling paint on windowsills, skirting boards and walls, and decaying wood found.

“The approved centre was not free from offensive smells, as two toilets were malodorous, with one toilet being particularly pungent. Inadequate ventilation of these areas contributed to this malodour.”

The Commission issued an ‘Immediate Action Notice’ to address these concerns and most had been addressed apart from a requirement to ensure an appropriate mix of qualified staff. The unit had sought additional posts which had yet to be filled.

Inspector of Mental Health Services for the Mental Health Commission, Dr Susan Finnerty, pointed out that there had been no significant improvement in compliance with regulations, rules and codes of practice over the past three years. Compliance in 2016 was 61 per cent; in 2017, it was 73 per cent; and in 2018, compliance was 68 per cent.

The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Inpatient Unit at Merlin Park also had a critical risk rating in relation to risk management.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Market traders frustrated at being ‘rebuffed’ by Galway City Council

Enda Cunningham

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It’s a firm favourite with local shoppers of a Saturday . . . and it’s a major attraction for visitors to the city, listed in all guide books and online reviews of ‘things to do’ when visiting the City of the Tribes.

However, traders at Galway’s famous market feel their concerns about the damaged surface at Churchyard Street are being ignored by management at City Hall.

Galway Market traders said they were ‘shocked’ to learn last week that an upgrade of the surface area of the market is not included in any phase of the resurfacing works on Shop Street, which is ongoing.

This is despite previous assurances from City Council management that Churchyard Street would be repaired as part of the overall Shop Street pedestrianisation project.

Traders estimated the total costs of urgent remedial works would be just €10,000. Some works are ongoing at the Lombard Street section of the market surface, as part of job to put in new electronic bollards, but traders have been told the Council doesn’t have the money to resurface the entire area.

Some 70 traders have stalls there every Saturday, and the Sunday market is becoming more attractive to stallholders with about 40 operating on Sundays. It is also a big attraction during Galway Arts Festival, and at Christmas time.

This year, St Nicholas’ Church celebrates its 700th year, which should attract further footfall to the area; and the market should also be busier with tourists coming here for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.

Dirk Flake, an organic vegetable grower based in Kinvara, and spokesperson for the Traders Committee, said the Council has confirmed that there are no plans to include the area in resurfacing works.

He said traders are “frustrated” at being “rebuffed” by senior Council management, and the “neglect” of the area. “There is no commitment, not even a promise,” he said.

“As traders, we are all in agreement that senior officials in Galway City Council need to take action now to make urgent repairs to prevent serious injury to market patrons and traders,” Mr Flake told the Galway City Tribune.

He said traders had been lobbying for the repairs for over two years – but to no avail. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly (Ind), he said, secured a meeting with officials, and contractors, during which it became apparent that Churchyard Street is not included in the present phase of resurfacing, and there are no plans to include the area in works scheduled for 2022.

Some gullies have been cleaned, which has resulted in less flooding, and a small are of uneven surface has been levelled. And he said that Councillor Collette Connolly (Ind) offered money left over from the Local Improvement Scheme to fix some ‘black spots’, but there was still no commitment from the Council “to do the maintenance works necessary to bridge the period until a major resurface can be planned for the market area”.

“We are looking for some kind of solution to address loose and broken paving which present a real hazard to patrons and pedestrians, many of whom are older with mobility issues,” said Mr Flake.

“Flooding in times of heavy rain also presents a real problem and it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt as they try and navigate their way through the market. This has been really evident over this winter as the weather has been particularly challenging and it makes conditions in the market very difficult for traders and patrons. We have been trying for some time to meet with Council officials to have a constructive discussion on issues relating to the market, but our repeated requests have been ignored. This is all the more frustrating because our committee has had a very productive relationship with the Council in the past.

“There seems to be a general lack of awareness or appreciation among officials for the importance of the market to the city. Sometimes it can feel like we are invisible to the Council. While we have had great help from a few individual Councillors, we are asking all Councillors and Council officials to come and experience conditions in the market so they can see first-hand where the issues are.

“We have ongoing issues with proper street cleaning, access to electricity and proper loading and unloading facilities. Galway has been designated the City of Culture for 2020 and these works will only enhance the experience of the market and its contribution to the unique culture of Galway City,” he added.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Gardaí appeal for help on locating missing woman

Enda Cunningham

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Gardaí have appealed for help in locating a 26-year-old woman who is missing from Knocknacarra since last week.

Andreea Mereuta is missing from her home in Monalee Manor, Knocknacarra, Galway since Thursday, January 23.

She was last seen on Ballalley Lane – the laneway behind the Skeff – at approximately 2.30am after a social gathering with friends.

Andreea is a Romanian national and is described as being 5’ 4” in height, slim build with long brown hair and brown eyes. When last seen she was wearing a red jacket and black leggings.

Gardaí and family are very concerned for Andreea and are asking if anyone has seen her or has any information on her whereabouts to contact Salthill Garda Station on 091 514720, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any Garda Station.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Homeless ‘hubs’ will finally open to families in March

Denise McNamara

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The modular units under construction in the Westside.

Some adults and children in emergency accommodation in the city will move into the 15 modular units that are currently being built in the Westside by St Patrick’s Day.

There has been a delay of eight months in delivering the homeless ‘hubs’ as a result of the procurement process that local authorities must undergo before agreeing on contracts above a certain value.

This €2 million scheme will be a mix of two and three-bed units, of between 50 and 70 square metres in size, with a further two prefabs to be used by staff from the Peter McVerry Trust who will have a round-the-clock presence on the site.

A spokesman for Galway City Council told the Galway City Tribune: “Works are underway on site and will be completed by the end of February. The scheme will be operational mid-March under the management of Peter McVerry Trust and there should be occupation by St Patrick’s Day.”

They were originally scheduled to be open to families last September when the scheme was announced by Council CEO Brendan McGrath, who used emergency powers to push the plan forward without approval from councillors a year ago next month.

Set to be used as alternative accommodation for families and adults currently being housed in hostels, hotels and B&Bs, the modular units are earmarked for the site behind the Westside Shopping Centre for up to five years.

“The unfortunate delay on delivering these was procurement – yet again. It just takes that long to have to go through the whole procurement procedure and conforming to procurement rules,” explained the spokesman.

The Peter McVerry Trust – a homeless charity based in Dublin which is the biggest recipient of funding for homeless services in the State – has yet to recruit staff for the scheme pending the delivery date.

In the latest data from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in late November, 361 people were registered as homeless by councils in the west, with 223 of them being accommodated by the local authorities in hotels and B&Bs and 136 in supported accommodation such as homeless hostels. Of those, the vast majority – 325 – were in Galway.

COPE Galway’s annual report for 2019 shows the homeless charity worked with a total of 1,406 people experiencing homelessness in Galway last year – 457 of whom were children.

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