Chaos in Galway’s hospitals, manifesting itself in unsafe and chronic overcrowding of Emergency Departments – at UHG and Portiuncula – can be eased with more beds, more staff and increased investment in community care, according to Irish Midwives and Nurses Organisation (INMO).
Mary Leahy, First Vice President and Representative of INMO, warned the health system is “on the edge of a cliff” and needs dramatic action to stave off an even worse crisis in the coming years.
Ms Leahy, a public health nurse and former Galway City councillor, said the problems with the health system are “multifactorial” and there are “so many issues to address”.
“In the short-term, we need to invest in community and public health. The rhetoric of politicians is about care in the community and primary care but there isn’t matching investment in community care.
“We have 40 less public health nurses now than in 2008, and yet we have an increased population. The number of people applying for the HDip in public health nursing, has fallen year-on-year. We need 200 places at least every year,” she said.
“The Emergency Department is a capacity issue. In Ireland, we have only 2.8 beds per 1,000 people but the OECD average is 4.8 beds per 1,000. I’m not saying we necessarily need 4.8 but we definitely need more beds because population has increased, we are living longer, and birth rates are up. So, yes, we need investment in community care but we also need more beds in hospitals to cater for an increasing population.
“There is a certain percentage of admissions to ED that are unnecessary admissions. That is because GPs are under pressure and cannot cope. If you invest in more public health nurses, who are involved in preventative medicine, we can reduce the level of admissions and treat people in the community and in their homes, which is where they want to be. You cannot underestimate the value of home care and home help and yet they are the first packages that suffer when there are cutbacks,” added Ms Leahy.
She said retention and recruitment of nurses must be prioritised, after the moratorium on recruitment, emigration and retirements during the recession has robbed the system of thousands of experienced nurses.
“We lost seven ED nurses over a number of weeks to the private sector, so there is an issue with retention as well as recruitment. And it’s not just an issue with ED, nurses working right through the system are burnt-out. They’ve been asked to put the shoulder to the wheel for the last eight years and they have put two and three shoulders to the wheel but it is not sustainable. Nurses were happy to do that in a crisis but there is no sign of the crisis abating,” she said.
Ms Leahy added there was a need to focus on planning ahead.
“There is no forward planning in the health service. There is a need to sit down and devise a strategy for the next 10, 15, 20 and 30 years rather than focusing on the here and now. We need to get rid of annual budgets because you cannot forward-plan.
“There needs to be multi-annual budgets for ten years to allow planning . . . We are on the edge of a cliff in terms of the number of elderly people who are going to need care over the next 20 years, if we don’t do something dramatic to invest in home care and primary care.”
Galway East Dáil Deputy Anne Rabbitte said the overcrowding crisis has spiralled out of control, with a record 600-plus people waiting on hospital trolleys in Emergency Departments across the country one day last week.
“The situation is completely unacceptable and has been generating justifiable outrage and anger among hospital staff, patients and their families. Unfortunately, the scenes witnessed in hospitals this week are all too familiar to people who have attended the Emergency Department at University Hospital Galway in recent months. This week at UHG there were 40 patients on trolleys on the busiest day of the year so far, and there are regularly more than 30 people on trolleys in the UHG ED,” said the Fianna Fáil TD.
Galway/Roscommon Independent, Michael Fitzmaurice said the entire health system is in “meltdown”.
“It has gone way beyond political one-upmanship and point scoring at this stage. People are suffering and it is so unfair. I have dozens of constituents who are having operations cancelled at extremely short notice due to beds not being available on the day of their surgery.
“This is compounding the Emergency Department and trolley crisis. People who are in desperate need of procedures are being forced, and in some cases, being told off the record, to attend EDs because this is the only way they will get their procedure carried out in any sort of a reasonable time,” he said.
O’Donnellan & Joyce celebrate 40 years in business
When O’Donnellan & Joyce started in 1982, little did they know that one day they would be celebrating 40 years in business. Celebrating the big 4-0 in September meant this has been a landmark year for the company.
In the beginning back in 1982 they worked mostly in lettings and private treaty sales. Their auctions began in 1984 on the Aran Islands with the sale of land and a pub.
Colm commented: “It is definitely one of my highlights over the past 40 years, everyone needs to start somewhere and it was a fabulous start.” The auction was held outside in the summer and is a far cry from the auctions held today.
These days O’Donnellan & Joyce ‘Wild Atlantic’ property auctions which take place in Galway’s Harbour Hotel, are renowned throughout Ireland, with properties for sale from Galway up to Donegal and all along the western seaboard right down as far as Kerry and over in Dublin.
Modern technology now means their auctions can reach a global audience with their live stream online bidding platform attracting international bidders as well as national and local bidders who can now bid and view the auction from the comfort of their own homes leading to a dramatic expansion of audiences across the world in recent years.
Combining modern technology with nationally renowned auctioneer Colm O’Donnellan taking bids on the day, brings tremendous excitement to the live auction room.
Not only do O’Donnellan & Joyce have their successful auction department, they also have a substantial new homes division, their private treaty department which sells on average over 350 homes a year, rentals division and their rapidly growing commercial & valuations department.
Like most businesses, it is the people who make the business. O’Donnellan & Joyce has 16 full time staff with many of them there for over 20 years.
Meeting hears of “devastating impact” of Huntington’s on families
The Minister of State for Disability at the Department of Health has acknowledged the devastating impact which Huntington’s Disease has on the entire family.
Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte met with families affected by the disease at the Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland annual meeting in Ballinasloe.
The Minister spoke positively about her intention to ensure families affected by HD will have access to necessary services and that family carers, who often care for several family members, have assistance.
She acknowledged the vital need for HD specialist support in the community to overcome the misunderstanding and stigma associated with the disease over generations.
The Minister also confirmed her priority to fully resource at least four of the seven required community neuro-rehabilitation teams around the country.
A member of a family affected by HD in County Galway said: “It is very encouraging to have Minister Rabbitte speak at our meeting to acknowledge the huge struggles families face.
“Huntington’s Disease desperately needs more recognition, more specialist support and more awareness from healthcare professionals; policy makers; and the general public.
“As children we grew up watching our Dad help care for Mum and just a few years later he had to start over with my older brother.
“Now my sister has symptoms and it is an ongoing struggle to get her the care and support she needs. HD families can overcome the fear and stigma associated with this disease if we know there are sufficient resources to ensure health and social care professionals can understand and help,” he said.
Huntington’s Disease affects the body’s nervous system – the network of nerve tissues in the brain and spinal cord that co-ordinate your body’s activities. This leads to progressive deterioration – physically, cognitively, and mentally until the individual becomes dependent on the help of others. Symptoms include motor (movement), mental health (for example mood) and cognitive (for example learning and thinking) disturbances, which in the majority of cases appear in mid-adult life.
Approximately 1,000 people in Ireland live with symptoms of HD or with the altered gene that triggers the disease. There are more than 3,000 people nationwide who are living at risk of developing the disease and hundreds of family carers left to struggle without adequate supports.
Despite the impact on families, from one generation to the next, there is little awareness of the condition and very limited specialist services. Unlike most other European countries, Ireland has no specialist multidisciplinary services or HD specialist nurses. By comparison, Scotland, with a similar-sized population have 10 regional multidisciplinary clinics with a team of 19 HD specialists offering outreach support throughout the country.
Concerns over day care move
Day care services at St Brendan’s Community Nursing Unit – which have been suspended for the past 18 months – have re-opened at the Loughrea Hotel.
Services restarted on Monday following a lengthy search for a suitable premises, and expected to continue operating from the hotel for around 18 months while an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus is “repurposed” by the HSE.
However, at least one local councillor has expressed concerns that the same level of services will not be available at the hotel.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) ordered the closure of day services at St Brendan’s, so that the space could be used by permanent residents of the nursing unit for dining and activities such as cooking and baking.
Local area councillor Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher said that between the hotel and St Brendan’s hospital, a day care service will now be available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with the capacity to serve 86 people every week.
“The service is vital to Loughrea and East Galway. Everyone was very disappointed to see the day service suspended. We all have neighbours and friends who use the service and this was a vital lifeline for them, allowing them to socialise with others, to have a lovely meal together and to have any minor medical issues dealt with.
“I’m delighted that a suitable premises has been found in Loughrea town, which has been the traditional location for the service and also offers users a chance to avail of other services in our local town. The Loughrea Hotel is the perfect location with all of the necessary services on site and is easily accessed by the service users”, the Fine Gael councillor and Cathaoirleach of Loughrea Municipal District said.
However, Independent councillor Geraldine Donohue raised concerns about the level of services that will be provided and said she had been asked by constituents how much the temporary service was going to cost.
“I believe that HIQA should have been challenged from the outset for our purpose built Seven Springs Day Care Centre to remain at St Brendan’s. As far as operating Day Care Services from the Loughrea Hotel, I have concerns that the services that the attendees enjoyed at Seven Springs will not be available at the Loughrea Hotel,” she said.
Meanwhile Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said HSE management are also planning to repurpose an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus to establish a permanent home for the day care service.
He said he had attended a site meeting recently to identify potential buildings on the campus.
“We now need to begin developing a permanent home for the service at St Brendan’s as it makes sense from so many perspectives to have the service on campus.
“At our site meeting we walked the campus and have identified a number of potential locations. The HSE’s building management team will now create a shortlist of locations and ultimately a decision on the final location will be made in consultation with staff.
“The intention is to partner with the Topping Trust, a local charity, to create a state-of-the-art day care facility at St Brendan’s to open in the shortest possible timeframe. We are all working towards that outcome and there’s a serious sense of urgency attached to the project,” said Deputy Cannon.