Date Published: 02-Jun-2011
It is as close as you can get to entering a spaceship, or a submarine, without leaving dry land in the West of Ireland, and it has helped save the lives of scuba divers. And yet many people might not be aware that the Republic’s national medical hyperbaric chamber, which opened late last year at a cost of €1 million, is located at University Hospital Galway.
No scuba diver wants to have to use it, and yet each and every one of them should be delighted that it is there. While the popularity of deep sea diving has increased remarkably over the past decade, the chamber ensures that divers no longer need to be airlifted to Plymouth or Portsmouth in the UK for top class medical treatment.
It is operated mainly by a team of committed, highly trained volunteers who are on call to help out medical staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case any diver gets into difficulties in Irish waters. Whether he or she needs to be airlifted from Co Kerry or take an ambulance from Carraroe, a committed team of three will be on hand to administer the treatment once the alarm is raised.
Decompression sickness or ‘the bends’, caused by breathing excess nitrogen under pressure, is a hazard faced by divers who surface too quickly or are forced to divert from their dive plans. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the only cure and UHG is the only hospital in the country to provide it.
Symptoms of ‘the bends’ include joint pains along the arms or legs, severe itching, numbness, staggering due to poor balance, and acute pain. It is important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible if a diver experiences difficulties after a dive.
UHG was the first and only hospital in the country to get a hyperbaric chamber, pioneered by the late Dr Peter O’Beirn, who was also a keen diving enthusiast, back in 1976. A diver would be strapped into the old ten foot long capsule for treatment, but the unit became obsolete and had to be shut down a few years ago.
While the old chamber might have seemed uncomfortable, it did the job for any diver who got into difficulties through the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. But it was unrecognizable compared to the sparkling new facility at UHG which has seating for ten patients, audio and visual links, and even a DVD player if a patient wishes to watch a film during treatment which can last for up to six hours.
At the moment, the chamber is only used for emergency cases of decompression illness or carbon monoxide poisoning. But, were the funding to become available, it could have a host of other uses, tackling traumatic brain injury, stroke, air embolism, gas gangrene, and nervous system problems which can be tackled by allowing a patient to breathe pure oxygen.
“I looked for funding for this chamber back in 1994, because the old chamber was getting too old. There were no monitoring facilities in it. So, after many years of looking for funding, we finally got it in 2003,” explains anesthetist and Salthill native Dr Noel Flynn as he surveys the new ‘space age’ National Hyperbaric Unit at UHG.
“We also have full monitoring facilities in this chamber. We can look after patients who are ventilating and in critical care. We can monitor their blood pressure, their ECG, and their carbon dioxide levels. We have already managed intensive care patients here.
“The old chamber was 10 foot long and 38 inches in diameter. This one is over 20 foot long and it is eight and a half foot diameter. You can stand up in it. We have CCTV and full sound and video systems inside. We can watch the patients or divers and they can watch a movie or listen to their music. They could be in there for five or six hours, depending on their therapy session.”
A system has been in place for some years now in which divers who get into trouble make contact with the Coast Guard. Medical staff then give them advice concerning the best way to get to UHG and prepare the unit so that it’s ready for action when the patient arrives.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Galway ‘Park and Ride’ could become permanent
Date Published: 07-May-2013
A park ‘n’ ride scheme from Carnmore into Galway city could become a permanent service if there is public demand.
That’s according to the Chief Executive of Galway Chamber of Commerce, Michael Coyle.
The pilot scheme will begin at 7.20 next Monday morning, May 13th.
Motorists will be able to park cars at the airport carpark in Carnmore and avail of a bus transfer to Forster Street in the city.
Buses will depart every 20 minutes at peak times and every 30 minutes at offpeak times throughout the day, at a cost of 2 euro per journey.
Tuam awaits UK hay import as overnight rainfall adds to fodder crisis
Date Published: 09-May-2013
Tuam is now awaiting a third import of hay from the UK as overnight rainfall has increased pressure on farmers struggling to source fodder.
A total of ten loads are expected at Connacht Gold stores throughout the West with a load expected at the Airglooney outlet this evening or tomorrow.
Farmers throughout the county have been struggling to cope with the animal feed shortage and a below than normal grass growth due to unseasonal weather conditions.
Overnight rainfall in the Galway area has also added to the problem making ground conditions in many areas are quite poor.
Joe Waldron, Agricultual Advisor with Connacht Gold says farmers in short supply can contact the Airglooney outlet on 093 – 24101.
Transport Minister urges end to Bus Eireann strike action
Date Published: 12-May-2013
The Transport Minister is urging drivers at Bus Éireann to engage in talks with management, in an effort to bring their strike action to an end.
There were no Bus Éireann services operating out of Galway today as a result of nationwide strike action by staff affiliated with the national bus and rail union.
Up to 20 Bus Éireann drivers are continuing to picket outside the bus depot at the docks in the city this evening.
Drivers from other unions have decided not to cross the picket line and go into work today – causing the disruption to be even worse.
Bus drivers are protesting against five million euro worth of cuts to their overtime and premium pay – cuts which Bus Eireann says are vital to ensure the future viability of the company.
The majority of services nationwide are disrupted, and the union say strike action will continue until management are willing to go back into negotiations.
However, it’s not expected to affect school services next week.
Galway bay fm news understands that around 70 percent, or over 100 Galway bus Eireann drivers are affiliated with the NBRU.