The plight of a Connemara man suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, who is over a year in High Dependency Unit waiting to secure a homecare package, was highlighted in Seanad Éireann.
And an internal ‘turf war’ between two departments within the Health Service Executive (HSE) was blamed for delaying the discharge home to Tuairin from hospital of Baile na hAbhann native Andrew Lydon.
Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh suggested in the Upper House that the HSE was not willing to take responsibility for putting in place a proper package which would allow him to return home.
The case – first highlighted in this newspaper in 2014, and again last month – involves Andrew, a father of two, who had to fight to get access to life-saving surgery three years ago.
The HSE had initially refused to grant the Connemara man a tracheostomy to extend his life. It was HSE policy not to provide MND (also known as ALS) patients with this procedure because of the prohibitive cost of aftercare packages associated with the operation. Some aftercare packages would cost tens of thousands of Euros per annum.
But after a public campaign by the father of two, and his wife, Sally Lydon, the HSE agreed to operate.
Andrew underwent surgery at University Hospital Galway (UHG) in mid-April last year, and it went well, but he has been occupying a bed in the High Dependency Unit (HDU) for more than a year.
Last month, Sally vented her frustrations in the Connacht Tribune, over the HSE’s failure to provide a homecare package, and lack of engagement on the issue.
She called on the HSE to ‘get the finger out’ to provide a package; and said her husband was feeling guilty at having to take up a bed in HDU, when what he needs is adequate aftercare.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh, who has championed the Lydons’ cause from the beginning, raised the issue again last week.
He said Andrew had undergone a successful tracheotomy operation and it was expected that afterward, once an agreed home care package was put in place and suitable nurses and carers were made available, that he would be able to spend the remainder of his years at home.
“That has not happened unfortunately, even though the efforts of his family, particularly his wife, have been ongoing,” he said.
“It appears that there is a kind of stand-off between two parts of the HSE, namely, that which runs the hospital section and the primary care section.”
He said the Primary, Community and Continuing Care (PCCC) side of the HSE had initially estimated that it would cost something of the order of €750,000 to provide home care on a 24-7 basis.
However, the family’s research indicates that this could be done for a fraction that, so they actually made a saving for the HSE in respect of the potential cost.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh asked Minister of State Finian McGrath to intervene as quickly as possible in the situation.
In reply, Tuam native Minister McGrath said he had asked the HSE for a report on the case.
“The HSE has informed that the person concerned is in a high dependency unit in University Hospital Galway and is in need of 24-hour care,” he said.
“I understand from the HSE that it is in discussion with the family on the appropriate options for the person’s discharge from the UHG. The HSE community health care organisation for Area 2, which covers Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, has assured me that it is actively engaging on an ongoing basis with the family with regard to the most suitable and appropriate care for the person.”
Community fights back on hospital ‘downgrade by stealth’
Raw emotion, sadness and some anger filled the air at Clifden Town Hall on Sky Road last Sunday afternoon as a shaken community gave honest, personal accounts of the impact the closure by stealth of Clifden District Hospital would have on the people of North Connemara.
The public meeting was hastily organised after fears emerged on Friday that the HSE may transfer respite services from Clifden to Merlin Park Hospital, 50-plus miles away in Galway City.
Families were told their loved ones in Clifden Hospital may have to move home, or go to Merlin Park the following Monday, due to ‘issues with staffing’.
An axe has hung over Clifden Hospital for some years, but this latest move stirred the community to fight back to retain services locally.
Galway County Councillor Eileen Mannion (FG), who organised the public meeting with Senator Sean Kyne, said 625 people signed the attendance sheets and an estimated 650 people attended.
“The community effort spreading the word was unbelievable; the turnout was unbelievable,” she said.
“It wasn’t just anger; it was raw emotion in the room. Sadness. Family members spoke about the calls they got on Friday. The feeling that their elderly person was being rejected; that they weren’t being respected.
“One man stood up, three years waiting for respite care for a family member, and then to be told after a few days in there that she’d have to be taken home or to Merlin Park.
“We’re 50 miles from Galway. If there’s no traffic you might get to the outskirts in an hour but with the traffic in Galway, you could be another hour to get to Merlin Park. Not everyone has transport either and they’ve to rely on buses.
“A young woman stood up at the meeting and said her dad was dying in Galway. And she had to go to Saint Vincent de Paul to get money to pay for a B&B so that the family would be close to him when the end came. People gave their personal stories, and it was just heart-breaking.”
(Photo by Carmel Lyden: Teresa Conneely from Roundstone addresses people at the public meeting in Clifden Town Hall).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the Clifden Hospital story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Pilgrim took to his feet to realise dream!
Clifden man Breandan O Scanaill, who is on a pilgrimage from his home town of Clifden to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, received a Mayoral welcome and a memorial crest when he arrived at the Asturian town of Navia last week.
Breandan, whose walk from his home outside Clifden to the reputed burial place of St James in Santiago, began in April, was walking through Navia in Spain when a local man came over to chat to him.
“He asked me about my journey and was interested in the fact that an Irish man had turned up in the town,” says Breandan, who had been admiring the Chapel of San Roque at the time.
The local man outlined the history of the building and the town to Breandan and they began chatting more generally about history and architecture – topics dear to the pilgrim’s heart.
Breandán’s new friend introduced himself as the Mayor of Navia, lgnacio Garcia Palacios, who invited the visitor from Clifden to visit the Town Hall.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Local Property Tax rate to stay unchanged despite Council chief’s plea
Councillors have agreed to keep the Local Property Tax (LPT) rate unchanged – despite pleas from management that Galway County Council is predicted to spend at least €22 million more than it brings in for the next two years.
County Chief Executive Jim Cullen had recommended an increase of 15% on the LPT rate for 2023 and 2024 – amounting to €2.1m extra in the coffers annually – which would bolster its case when it came to pleading for a greater share of funding from central government.
In an estimation of income and expenditure for the Council, taking into account “unavoidable” expenditure and income changes set to hit, the Council would run a deficit of €9.04m in 2023 and 13.2m in 2024 – well over €22m unless there was a change in finances.
“I am hopeful of an uplift in baseline [funding] levels . . . we cannot continue to ignore the fact that other councils have raised LPT and their citizens enjoy a better standard of services that in Galway,” he stressed.
He told a meeting this week that €9m would be needed to maintain services next year at the same level as 2022. This was due to significant cost increases given that inflation is reaching 9.6% currently. Pensions, gratuities and payroll increases from the national pay agreement, increments and additional staff were all adding to bigger outgoings.
Without that extra funding, it will be necessary to reduce spending by that amount with a negative impact on service and staffing levels, he said.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the story, including the councillors’ discussions, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.