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Twenty-year waiting list for bone scans to be cleared

Denise McNamara



A vital bone density scanning service which would identify cases of osteoporosis has been saved after approval was given to recruit nine radiographers to clear a 20-year waiting list.

The DXA (Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scanning unit at Merlin Park Hospital was due to be axed because of a shortage of staff which worsened in the recession.

John Carey, a specialist in osteoporosis, has been lobbying for the appointment of radiographers for the service, pointing out that one in three men and one in five women die within a year of suffering a hip fracture.

Ireland has one of the highest incidences of osteoporosis and hip fracture in the world – almost double many other countries and well above the UK and EU norms.

The cost of treating osteoporosis-related fractures is close to €1 billion annually.

DXA scanners, which provide bone X-rays and measure the strength of bones, are critical to the diagnosis of osteoporosis and in determining how to treat fractures.

Minister for State at the Department of Health Helen McEntee last week confirmed to the Dáil that one radiographer has already begun work, five more have been offered posts and three more positions have been advertised.

Until then, the Saolta Hospital Group are availing of private facilities, hiring agency staff and approving overtime to ensure the service is maintained.

Fine Gael Deputy Hildegarde Naughton said these nine full-time positions will go some way in alleviating the waiting lists for people in need of scans.

“I am told there is a 20 year waiting list, as it stands, for a DEXA scan in Merlin Park University Hospital. No referral has been processed in three years owing to a lack of staff,” she stated.

“The DXA scanner situated at Merlin Park is the only scanner not privately operated in the region. DXA is cheap, very safe and very cost-effective. Identifying people early helps them reduce their risk of fracture.

“After questioning the Minister of State at the Department of Health on the threatened closure of the DXA scanning unit at Merlin Park Hospital due to an inability to staff the unit, I am assured there will be a continuity of service until such time as all the additional radiographers are in post.”

Before 2008, the hospital operated two DXA scanners, five days a week, but more recently just one machine was operating for two half-days, creating a 20-year waiting list for bone scans, not deemed to be a priority.

Approval was given in 2013 for more staff, but the posts were not filled.


Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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