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CITY TRIBUNE

Multi-agency Covid-19 response forum launched in Galway

Enda Cunningham

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A new Covid-19 response forum has been formed in Galway City – with more than a dozen agencies including the City Council, the HSE, Gardaí and COPE Galway.

A dedicated community support helpline will be launched on Monday to assist at-risk members of the public.

Galway City Council is the lead agency in the new ‘Covid-19 Galway City Community Response Forum’.

According to a statement from the Council, the purpose of the forum is to “lead the co-ordination of Covid-19 community supports and resilience and to ensure that there is a co-ordinated community response, enabling all the voluntary and statutory agencies to collaborate in support of our communities and particularly our most vulnerable members”.

The new helpline will assist at-risk members of the public in accessing non-emergency and non-medical supports and advice during the current public health emergency.

“The helpline is focused primarily on ensuring that vulnerable members of the community or those living alone can access deliveries of groceries, medicine and fuels,” the statement reads.

Included in the Covid-19 Galway City Community Response Forum are: Galway City Council; Health Service Executive; An Garda Síochána; Community Welfare Service; Galway City Partnership; Galway City Community Network; Galway Volunteer Centre; COPE Galway and other community, voluntary and sports representatives

“Its core aim is contributing to the community-wide effort to limit the spread of Covid-19. Galway City Council, through this group, will ensure that the wide variety of groups working across the city to assist those in need, will do so in an organised, collaborative and targeted way.

“The Community Response Forum is there to ensure the very best use of the many resources assisting vulnerable persons with their daily needs at this unprecedented time, whether that is collecting medication, food shopping, social support and contact,” the statement reads.

Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, said: “There are a number of agencies currently doing excellent work in delivering care to older and vulnerable people in our communities. These groups are currently operating independently of each other and Galway City Council’s role is to provide a targeted, integrated and coordinated approach to the delivery of these much needed services to our more vulnerable citizens across the city during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Galway City Council is ideally placed both statutorily and regionally to channel this great work and provide the governance structure in partnership with all stakeholders.  This public health crisis has changed life for so many, and we are there to help with that change.

“Our own staff whose day-jobs have changed due to this crisis, will be a key resource in the management and operation of this community support programme along with our partner agencies/groups,” said Mr McGrath.

Set to come into effect from Monday, March 30, a dedicated Freephone number will be available in the coming days but in the meantime members of the public can access this new resource by calling Galway City Council on 091 536 400 or by emailing covidsupport@galwaycity.ie

An information leaflet including the new freephone number and other information will be distributed around the city over the coming days.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Patients moved from Merlin ‘to bolster private numbers’

Enda Cunningham

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Merlin Park: Patients were moved to private hospital.

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he will ask the HSE why patients requiring rehab services were moved from Merlin Park to a private hospital, leaving the state-of-the-art facility idle.

He was asked in the Dáil last week why waiting lists were not being tackled, when capacity at the Galway Clinic and Bon Secours private hospitals is at 15-20%.

Last month, the State entered a deal to ‘take over’ the country’s private hospitals – which has come under criticism in the Dáil with claims of under-utilisation of facilities.

Galway West Deputy Catherine Connolly asked for full details of the agreement with the private hospitals – worth €115m per month nationally – and said nothing about it made sense to her.

“We have major waiting lists and our two private hospitals in Galway City are at 15% to 20% capacity. The hospital itself [UHG] – I must be wrong about this figure but it is what I have been told – was at 30% to 40% capacity as of May 15,” she said.

Department of Health figures for last week show a 39% ‘utilisation’ rate for the Bon Secours and 16% for Galway Clinic.

“The Minister has stood in the Chamber and told us he had to make such arrangements, and certainly I welcomed the narrative at the time that we were taking over the private hospitals to deal with a pandemic. However, we are not utilising them.

“Merlin Park has a state-of-the-art rehab service. It has a gym and all types of therapists but it is now lying idle because, under this deal, the Government transferred the patients from that wonderful facility to a private hospital.

“It took the therapists and patients into the private hospital to allow them to get up to 15% or 20% capacity. It sent the nurses into the public system and left the system empty at Merlin Park, and that is to mention only one service.

“None of the way this has been done makes sense to me. Surely anybody with a bit of sense would know that when the terms and the heads of agreement were signed, it should have allowed for change.

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

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CITY TRIBUNE

Barriers set to halt groups drinking at quayside

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Access to the green quayside areas off Wolfe Tone Bridge will be blocked from today to prevent large groups of people drinking over the Bank Holiday weekend.

And the message from Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley is – enjoy the glorious weekend of weather that’s in store, but diligently maintain the two-metre social distancing rule and don’t consume booze in public areas.

“We are not killjoys and the lovely weather is a boost to everyone’s spirits. People will enjoy the outdoors this weekend but it’s illegal to consume alcohol in public areas and we will be enforcing that bylaw.

“In this kind of weather, there will inevitably be groups of people congregating in outdoor areas – but the message is simple and crystal clear: at all times maintain the two-metre social distancing guideline,” Chief Supt Curley told the Galway City Tribune.

On Tuesday evening last, Gardaí did enforce a dispersal procedure in the Spanish Arch/Claddagh Quay area of the city, after about 200 young people had gathered there, many of them consuming alcohol. They continued to patrol the area yesterday.

A spokesperson for Galway City Council confirmed yesterday that a green area on the Claddagh Quay side of the river – where large groups of young people had gathered this week – would be closed off to the public, probably from today (Friday).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying and subscribing to our newspapers, this website would not exist. You can read the full article by buying a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Westwood owners plan tourist accommodation usage

Enda Cunningham

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The Westwood student accommodation complex site this week.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The owners of the new Westwood student accommodation in Newcastle are planning to use part of the complex for tourist and business traveller accommodation “in light of the current health pandemic”.

NTM ROI Seed Capital is currently building the five apartment blocks off the N59 and has sought a determination from An Bord Pleanála on whether it would need to apply for planning permission to allow “partial occupation for tourist and visitor use in the academic year from September 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021”.

Under the existing planning permission, the development “shall only be occupied as student accommodation . . . and shall not be used for any other purpose without a prior grant of planning permission for a change of use”.

However, the company has drawn up a contingency plan in the event that construction may not be completed for the coming academic year.

The plan involves allowing tourists and other ‘non-student’ users to be accommodated in the complex – An Bord Pleanála has been asked to determine whether the change would be a ‘material alteration’ of the planning approval or not.

If it is ruled a material alteration, the Board can then invite submissions from members of the public before it decides on whether to approve or reject it.

Already, local residents – who strongly objected to the entire development during the planning process – have expressed concerns about parking issues which they believe would arise if the Westwood is used for tourist use.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying and subscribing to our newspapers, this website would not exist. You can read the full article by buying a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune HERE.

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