From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Noise exceeding acceptable decibel levels and poor air quality during the construction of the N6 Galway City Ring Road would present a health hazard and force a Castlegar nursing home to close.
At the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing into the ring road this week, experts raised concerns that such conditions could affect residents of the Caiseal Geal Nursing Home on the School Road – adjacent to the location of deep excavations which would involve rock breaking and blasting.
The ring road project team estimate that this part of the project would take 18 months, but legal and expert representatives of the facility’s owner, predicted that this was underestimated and would take much longer.
Michael O’Donnell, barrister for the nursing home, said he was shocked that the facility was not mentioned or considered in an Environmental Impact Study. He asked if the developers were even aware of the 42-bed facility, which had been rebuilt to meet HIQA (Health Information and Quality Authority) requirements in 2015.
Had the owners known the route of the ring road was going to be so close to them, they may not have gone ahead with the rebuild as the proposed roadworks would now “extremely and adversely” affect their services.
It was not only a care home, but a step-down facility for both respite and palliative care for very vulnerable and high dependency patients.
Work was planned to go ahead on the road project on three sides of the property and on one side, would only be a distance of 12 metres away from a courtyard to the north of the facility which was used by the residents on a daily basis.
However, Dr Imelda Shanahan, a specialist in air quality, noise and vibration, told the hearing that the residents would not be able to use that courtyard at all between April and September when the deep excavations, blasting, rock breaking and transport of dug soil would take place.
She said that the dust, noise and vibrations from the site so close to the nursing home would deem it inoperable and create a health hazard to the patients.
The blasting — estimated at five times per week — can only take place in the early spring, through to September to protect the wintering birds in the vicinity.
Dr Shanahan said during her inspection of the site in February, two windows looking out to the north were open, but this would not be at all possible due to the level of blasting so close to the facility.
Work is also due to take place on realigning the main gas line as well as sewer pipes.
She estimated the deep digging would create about 377,000 tonnes of soil and would take at least 15 months to transport, and not nine months as they were being told.
This would also involve a huge volume of traffic, especially HGVs transporting this soil from earth excavation — between 179 or 215 movements a week, depending on the length of the working week.
She carried out an air quality and noise impact assessment taking into consideration the sensitivity of the long-stay care home, which also provided respite and palliative care.
Exposure to contaminants by “these vulnerable groups” would be a health hazard. The main pollutants would be dust fibres, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide as well as fungal spores and bacteria from the large-scale excavation of earth.
These pollutants would cause a “serious respiratory problem, particularly for older people” and would be unavoidable due to the close proximity of the work to the care home. She further explained that the proximity would mean there would be an uncontrolled dispersion process and again pointed out that one side of the facility was only 12 metres away, which was far too close to be safe. Dust, in particular, couldn’t be controlled within a 25-metre range, she added.
The nursing home is currently located in a quiet, tranquil setting but noise from the blasting, rock breaking and processing activities, would be well above the acceptable World Health Organisation guidelines for community noise recommendations of 30 decibels indoors and 45 decibels outdoor.
The site clearance noises could reach 71 decibels in the building and 77 decibels in the courtyard; the rock extraction would create 79 and 85 decibels respectively in the same areas and HGV transport would cause decibels of 69 and 70 respectively.
“In my professional opinion, this would be intolerable for residents as the nursing home is uniquely close to the site, especially the courtyard used by residents.
“Their air quality would also be impacted. It would be intolerable to operate the nursing home during construction as permissible noise levels will also be exceeded,” she concluded.
Mr O’Donnell further added that HIQA requirements couldn’t be met in those circumstances and that the facility would be closed down.
Again, he said it was shocking that no analysis had been done in regard to the proximity of the nursing home to the propose site works at Castlegar.
This is just one report from last week’s coverage of the Galway City Ring Road oral hearing. To stay up to date each week, see the Connacht Tribune or Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Groundbreaking coronary operation at UHG offers vision of future healthcare
The announcement this week that Galway University Hospitals carried out the first robotic guided coronary intervention in Ireland and UK, has given researchers a glimpse into the future possibilities presented by this medical breakthrough.
Currently, University Hospital Galway is the centre of excellence for cardiovascular medicine for one million people in the West and North West.
It’s where patients from Sligo, Donegal and elsewhere go for coronary procedures, such as the insertion of stents to relieve blockages in the arteries of the heart.
That involves hours of travel, on top of lengthy procedures, which can be exhausting for patients.
But one potential benefit of new robotic technology is the prospect of remote procedures, explained Professor Faisal Sharif, Consultant Cardiologist, who carried out the first procedure in Ireland or UK, at UHG.
“I think we will see in the future more advantages, and value, when these procedures can be done remotely,” Prof Sharif told the Tribune.
This would involve a patient going to Sligo University Hospital or Letterkenny University Hospital to have a stent procedure, which would be carried out via the internet by a robotic ‘hand’ controlled by a consultant cardiologist based at UHG.
Obviously, the basic structures and a trained crew would need to be available in Sligo or Letterkenny, including nurses and junior doctors.
And Prof Sharif cautioned that for remote procedures to become reality here, there needs to be more research and development and more funding.
“That’s the potential and that’s the future but it hasn’t come yet,” he said.
What has come is exciting, too, though.
Before Christmas, Prof Sharif carried out three procedures which combined the benefits of coronary intervention with the precision of robotics.
The new technology is used in stent procedures to relieve blockages in the arteries of the heart. It allows for greater precision in positioning stents, allowing the interventional cardiologists to move the stent a millimetre at a time.
It also allows the medical team to have an enhanced, close-up view of the angiographic images and information during the entire procedure.
The new technology allows interventional cardiologists to use the robot as an extension of their own hand, allowing for robotic precision and details visualisation when positioning of guide catheters, guide-wires and balloon or stent catheters.
Prof Sharif said the technology was beneficial both to the patient and to the cardiologist.
“The main advantage of robotics is that it is safe and very precise in stent placement. It allows the accurate placement for up to 1mm at a time,” he said.
For the patient, this increased precision means less metallic material in the arteries, “and so less long-term side effects from that metal”.
The use of robotics also benefits staff, meaning fewer back injuries, less exposure to radiation and more precise placement of stents, he said.
Prof Sharif said UHG would be performing these procedures more regularly. They’ve started with straightforward cases, and over time, when they understand more about it, and the volume increases, they will increase complexity.
Seven more procedures are planned for the next fortnight but won’t entirely replace the traditional method, he said.
“Physicians learn a technique to do things over many years. That’s our livelihood, that’s what we do. If we bring machines in, there is going to be resistance. But at the moment, it’s to see the positive side of things, see how it can improve outcomes, how it can do things more safely, how it can take the load off physicians, who will still be fully trained to do it.
“It is just assistance. I think we need to learn what the potential is. It won’t replace anything. If any hospital has 10 operators, four or five may adopt it, others may stay the traditional way. I think the change will be slow. But I hope over time when they see the results they might like to change,” he said.
Originally from Pakistan, Prof Sharif’s home for 26 years is Ireland. As well as clinical work, the academic part of his job involves University of Galway tutoring and research commitments.
He’s a founder member of a university programme on medical device innovation called BioInnovate Ireland, which has developed start-ups over 10 years.
That synergy, as well as funding through Science Foundation Ireland, led to the first robotic procedure in Ireland and the UK taking place in Galway.
“In Galway we have a big medical device sector. It’s the ideal place to be for medical device developments, especially cardiovascular,” he added.
Chris Kane, General Manager of Galway University Hospitals welcomed the new technology.
“Innovations such as this are transforming medicine . . . this state-of-the-art robotics will enhance patient care for our patients across the West and Northwest of Ireland,” she added.
(Photo: The robotic guided coronary intervention at UHG. It was the first such procedure in Ireland and the UK).
Six Shinners to contest Galway City local elections in 2024
Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley
Sinn Féin is planning to run two candidates in each city electoral ward in the next Local Elections in 2024.
Party number-crunchers nationally want to flood local election tickets with candidates to pick up extra seats and capitalise on anti-Government sentiment that is circulating among a cohort of voters.
The Shinners ran too few candidates in the last General Election. It meant they could not capitalise fully from a swing to the party during that campaign. They left seats behind them.
Now they’re planning to run a record number of candidates. In Galway, that would mean two candidates in each of the three areas, City West, City Central and City East.
The thinking is that they need to pick up additional seats in local authority elections, so that they have sufficient councillors to vote for Sinn Féin candidates in Seanad elections. More councillors equals more senators.
Sinn Féin is very much preparing for Government; and while the polls suggest it’s the most popular party (at 34% according to the latest in the Sunday Times last weekend) and would likely win most Dáil seats if an election was held tomorrow, it would still need numbers in the Seanad to pass legislation.
One problem faced by Sinn Féin is the party might find it difficult to source six credible candidates to contest local elections in Galway.
Another problem with running two, rather than one, in each ward in Galway City is that SF could split the vote and end up not winning any seats at all.
In 2019, Councillors Mairéad Farrell, Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir all lost their seats after dismal local elections. Farrell was since elected to the Dáil following her Lazarus comeback but the organisation locally is still wary of a fickle Galway electorate.
If Sinn Féin doesn’t win back those three seats lost in 2019, then the next locals would be deemed a massive failure.
Winning more than three seats on Galway City Council would be a success but are the Shinners willing to risk running two candidates in each ward, splitting the vote and ending up with egg on their faces?
Photo: Mairéad Farrell with fellow Sinn Féin members Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir (back left) after she was elected to the Dáil in 2020. All lost had their seats in Galway City Council in 2019 after dismal local elections.
This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Galway is seventh-worst city in Europe for car traffic congestion
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Car traffic congestion in Galway is quickly rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, with commuters spending up to 94 hours caught on the city’s gridlocked arteries last year.
According to data compiled by INRIX, a world-leader in mobility data, Galway is the seventh-worst city in Europe for congestion, an 84% increase on its position in 2021.
The data shows that Galway places in the worst 50 cities in the world for congestion – taking 39th place, with Dublin the only other Irish city placing higher at Number 12.
While the figures show that car traffic has not fully returned to pre-Covid levels, the 2022 figures came within 13% of 2019 congestion rates.
This was despite vast numbers continuing to work from home last year, a worrying trend according to the local People Before Profit representative Adrian Curran.
In Cork, Limerick and Dublin, there had been a more lasting effect, showing decreases of 20%, 26% and 29% respectively, he said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.