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State slated for ‘apartheid’ on medical cards



Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail

“Medical apartheid” is well and truly alive in Galway with new figures showing there has been an increase in doctor visit cards and a corresponding decline in medical cards which provide for a far more comprehensive array of free benefits.

Figures published by the HSE’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service show there has been a nearly 7% jump in the number of GP visit cards for Galway residents over the last two years.

Medical cards had declined by over 9% in the same period.

This year 28,332 Galway patients were eligible for the doctor visit cards, up from 26,522 in January 2017. Medical cards went from 92,971 on that date to 85,146 this month.

The Galway-based President of the National Association of GPs (NAGP) Dr Maitiu O’Tuathail said there is no comparison between a doctor visit card (DVC) and a medical card.

A DVC costs the State about 10% of what a medical card does.

“Doctor visit cards (DVC) include GP visits only. Unlike medical cards they do not include the cost of medications. Furthermore, they do not allow patients access to vital services such as physiotherapy, mental health, speech and language therapy or public health nurse care,” the Leitir Mor native stated.

“What we are seeing here is the sustained reduction in the number of medical cards issued by stealth. This is a cost-saving measure being used by the government which will ultimately restrict access to vital services to those who need them the most, therefore costing the patient.

“It is also increasing unrestricted access to General Practice, which is a finite resource and is already stretched beyond capacity, which will, in turn, further reduces access to General Practice for the entire population, further impacting patients who genuinely need medical care.”

Dr Andrew Jordan, chairperson of the NAGP, called on the Government to end the con job of doctor visit cards and provide the most marginalised in society with full medical cards, allowing them access the healthcare they deserve.

“What this amounts to is medical apartheid, where those with medical cards have access to all the services they need, but those with DVCs have access to none.”

Chief executive of the NAGP Chris Goodey explained that the existing system forces GPs to accept large numbers of medical card and GP visit cards in order to make their practices viable.

As a result they often have to work 70-hour weeks, leading to burn-out and high levels of emigration among younger GPs.

Each year around 180 GPs are trained but half of them emigrate soon after graduation.

In the last budget the Government announced 100,000 new GP visit cards without any consultation with the professionals who provide the service to those extra patients.

“It’s like the Government giving away free membership to a gym that is already at capacity,” he stated.

“There are approximately two million patients with medical cards or GP visit cards. Over the past eight years, the number of medical and GP-visit cards has increased by 40%.

“Over that same period, under the cuts imposed by the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act (FEMPI), funding for general practitioners was cut by 38%. It has never been restored.”


Bikers do their bit to mark anniversary of blood service



The Blood Bike team and supporters with the charity’ s newest motorbike, Cara, during the fundraising day at the Galway Plaza. Pictured are (from left) John Moylan, Bridie Lyons (Fundraising Manager), Sean Griffin, Fergus Turner, James Treacy, Pat McDonagh, Dave O'Leary (Chairperson), Ronan Kane (Fleet Manager), and Sergio Massidda.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Blood Bike West, and the big birthday was marked in style with a sun-drenched afternoon at Galway Plaza’s Bike Fest West.

Galway stuntman Mattie Griffin was the headline attraction; there was face painting, games, plenty of ice-cream – and hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts and families.

The birthday celebrations kicked off with a 160-strong motorcycle spin around the Galway countryside, raising well-needed funds for the volunteering efforts of Blood Bike West.

As a 100% volunteer-run and funded organisation, donations are vitally important for Blood Bike West to continue operating their medical transport in the West of Ireland.

Since its inception in 2012, demand for their volunteers’ services continues to grow:  collecting and delivering all manner of urgent medical items regionally and nationally, such as bloods, breast milk, medicines, scans, and equipment.

In 2021 alone, Blood Bike West delivered 983 urgent medical deliveries throughout the country.

As part of Galway City Councils Community, Blood Bike West undertook to operate a 24/7 service, including 165 medication deliveries from pharmacies to the self-isolating and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Since Blood Bike West’s inception in 2012, this increase sees the ongoing need to replace and renew their fleet of motorcycles.

Their motorbikes, Madison, Heather, Margaret, and newly inaugurated bike Cara, are regularly seen on Galway roads, delivering consignments to and from local and regional hospitals.


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Park fun to mark Africa Day



Pam Mncube-Zoki of Africa United Galway, speaking at the National Integration Conference at NUI Galway last week. The group are co-organisers of Africa Day which takes place in Salthill Park on May 28. Photo:xposure

On Saturday next (May 28) in Salthill Park, Galway’s African community invites people to join them in a celebration of culture as part of the national Africa Day celebrations.

Africa United Galway, emerging from lockdown and having hosted online festivals for the past two years, will be delivering a family fun day event.

Africa Day 2022 will reinforce a collaboration between Africa United Galway and Galway Africa Diaspora, Shining Light Galway and GoCom Radio (broadcasting live), who have worked to create a festival that will showcase Galway as a city of culture.

Among the performances on the day will be Afrobeat dancer Lapree Lala of Southside Moves, who will show how to dance in African style; Elikya Band will be bringing indigenous African Congolese music; The Youth Performances will be displaying their talent in rap, singing, speaking, and dancing and for the young at heart.

Galway Afrobeat performer Dave Kody will get the crowd moving and there will be poetry through spoken word and cultural displays. There will be a photo booth and face painting and everyone will get to have a taste of African cuisines.

In the spirit of inclusion and integration, The St Nicholas Collegiate Church Parish Choir will be presenting a special African performance as well as a feature presentation by the Hession School of Irish Dance, who will be presenting the famous Riverdance.

Also organised is a football friendly between the African community and An Garda Siochana.

The Mayor, Colette Connolly, will officially be opening the event with a keynote speech and several African Ambassadors are expected to be present on the day to reinforce the culture, beauty and strength of Africa and support for its people.

Africa Day is sponsored by Irish Aid and supported by Galway City Council.

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Domestic Violence Response recorded highest number of clients in 24 years under Covid ‘shadow’



At the launch of the Domestic Violence Response (DVR) Annual Report were Rachel Doyle and Elizabeth Power of DVR, Deputy Catherine Connolly and Anne Reynolds. Photos Sean Lydon


A domestic violence support charity in Galway has recorded its highest number of clients in 24 years – “under the shadow” of Covid-19.

Domestic Violence Response (DVR), which is based in Moycullen, also reported its highest level of counselling support sessions in its 2021 annual report published last week.

The charity saw 136 new clients in 2021, and a total of 266 people utilised its services. It also saw a significant increase of return service users.

The support service also provided 51 nights of emergency accommodation through a partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland, and Women’s Aid.

Elizabeth Power, Coordinator of DVR Galway, said: “Our 2021 annual report highlights the stark reality of the level of domestic violence in Galway. Under the shadow of Covid-19, DVR recorded the highest number of clients in our 24-year history and delivered the highest number of support services.

“Our staff noted increases in the level of worrying and harrowing experiences of control and abuse. The trauma of these experiences will live with our service users long after Covid-19 fades into memory.

“While Covid-19 restrictions are behind us, domestic violence continues to be present in hundreds of homes throughout Galway.

“As we move through 2022, we will continue to provide our much-needed services to women and men throughout Galway, with an extensive counselling support and advocacy service and a number of new initiatives including a partnership with the HSE which will be launched in the coming months.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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