A total of 303 complaints were made from people living in Galway according to the Ombudsman’s annual report for 2017 – an increase of 19% in a year.
Some 48 of the 852 complaints about local authorities nationally were against Galway City Council – the fifth highest in the country. Complaints against Galway County Council were not far behind at 46.
During 2017, Ombudsman staff visited the Galway Citizen’s Information Centre where 64 complaints were received.
Of the 1,542 cases that were investigated thoroughly by the Ombudsman’s office, 27% were fully upheld, 3% were partially upheld, assistance was provided in 14% of cases, and 56% were not upheld.
Overall, in 44% of cases, members of the public directly benefited from contacting the office.
There are just two Galway cases mentioned among the case studies highlighted in the annual report.
One of them involves University Hospital Galway and their failure to accept a transfer of a patient from Letterkenny University Hospital for a urology review for 13 days – he died before being moved.
“The urology team in the regional centre accepted the man for transfer but his name was not added to the bed management list in the regional centre until 13 days later. The local hospital rang most days to see if a bed was available and wrote in the bed management log book ‘no bed’ or ‘not on list’,” according to the report.
“They were not aware, until the Ombudsman’s examination, that the man’s name had not been put on the list. At one stage the team in the regional centre said the man was not suitable for transfer until more tests were done. The family was not aware of this. It was clear that there was no agreed protocol covering the procedure for the transfer of patients between the two hospitals.”
After his name was finally added to the bed management list, he became too unwell to be transferred and he died.
The family’s complaint was upheld by the Ombudsman. Responding to the findings, the Saolta Hospital Group said it had committed to “finalising a Bi-Directional Patient Flow policy to streamline the process for transferring patients within the hospital group”.
“The importance of clear documentation and communication in arranging transfers was to be included in induction training for hospital doctors.”
The general managers of both hospitals wrote to the family and apologised, noted Ombudsman Peter Tyndall.
The other case centred on a complaint about flooding. A man lived beside HSE lands that flooded during periods of heavy rain resulting in an overflow of water on his property, damaging his percolation area and septic tank, which left his toilets and bathrooms inoperable.
The man said that the flooding was due to a broken concrete drain or culvert that ran under the public road. Both the HSE and Galway County Council informed the man it was the other’s responsibility.
In his investigation, the Ombudsman said the cause of the flooding was the broken drain and was the responsibility of the Council. The Council agreed to replace the existing drain and carry out remedial works to a nearby land owner’s property to prevent further flooding of the HSE’s lands. The works were part funded by the HSE.
In some case, the upheld complaints led to a windfall for the complainants.
A farmer who made a complaint when the Department sought to recover €27,550 from him in relation to a Rural Environment Protection Scheme payment won his case and got a full refund of the penalty after the Ombudsman found he was not informed about the correct procedures.
A man received €47,000 after his disability allowance was backdated by six years.
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later