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UHG extension work to begin in New Year

Francis Farragher



A new 75-bed extension to University Hospital Galway could start as soon as “next January or February”, according to local Labour Party TD, Derek Nolan.

Deputy Nolan said that the early start of the work on the extension would be very good news for both patients and staff at the hospital.

Last August, the Clinical Director of Hospitals in Galway and Roscommon, Dr David O’Keeffe, announced plans for a €70m extension to the hospital.

He said that the development would consist of single rooms with en suites and would be proceeding as a public/private partnership.

Dr O’Keeffe told The Irish Medical Times at the time that the development would facilitate infection control and improve the dignity of the patients’ stays in hospital.

This week, Deputy Nolan said that the new three storey extension to UHG would be built on the part of the hospital where St Rita’s Ward currently stands.

“I understand that UHG is at a very advanced stage with the new extension and that work could commence as early as January or February next.

“It will go some way towards easing overcrowding and allowing greater flexibility in the hospital’s operation. The new beds will each be in individual rooms with their own bathrooms offering patients excellent facilities and privacy,” said Deputy Nolan.

He said however it was important that the excellent care and expertise given by the nurses and staff in St Rita’s – used for elderly people and stroke sufferers – wouldn’t be lost and that this care and skill-set would be maintained.

“Firstly, it is important that the excellent care and expertise given by nurses and staff in St. Rita’s is not lost and this important skill-set is maintained. Anyone who has visited St. Rita’s knows that the care given is second to none.

“Secondly, it is crucial that capacity is brought on stream elsewhere to manage the temporary reduction in bed numbers. Hospital occupancy is very high, so any reduction in numbers will have an impact. It is my view that Merlin Park should be used to meet that additional need.

“This extension is great news for Galway and must be welcomed. It is now important to manage the period between construction and completion properly,” said Deputy Nolan.

Last evening the HSE couldn’t confirm any start-up date for the project but said that this development had been announced some time back.

According to Dr O’Keeffe in the Medical Times, when cancer services began in Galway, no extra beds were provided to service medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology.

Since then, Galway had also been designated for the treatment of oesophageal cancer and lung cancer surgery, without any additional beds, he added.

Dr O’Keeffe said that it was important to ensure that there were designated beds and pre-assessment beds for cancer patients at UHG.

“Decisions can then be made on the appropriate place to admit patients, to spare them going through the emergency department,” said Dr O’Keeffe.

He also said at the time that Merlin Park’s capacity to do elective surgeries would increase, particular in relation to endoscopies – internal examinations of organs such as the lung, stomach, bladder and bowl. Orthopaedic elective work would also continue at Merlin Park, said Dr O’Keeffe.

Connacht Tribune

Compliant Galwegians are keeping their distance

Francis Farragher



Checkpoint...Garda warning for those who stray too far from home.

BOY racers, cyclists, gym users and young people attending house parties are among those in Galway who have been issued with Fixed Payment Notices (FPNs) for breaching the Covid-19 travel regulations over the past week.

However, Gardaí in Galway have reported ‘a very high-level of compliance’ from the general public as regards the travel restrictions that are a central part of the Level-5 ‘Stay Home – Stay Safe’ Covid campaign.

Over the weekend, Gardaí issued FPNs to so-called ‘boy racers’ in two separate cases on the Tuam Road outside Galway city and in the Craughwell area.

FPNs – involving a €100 on-the-spot fine – were also issued last week to a number of young people attending house parties in the Galway city area, after Gardaí had been called to the scene.

Two cyclists stopped in the Cornamona area of North Connemara last week, who were 19 kilometres from their homes – and outside their own county boundary – also faced Garda censure.

The cyclists weren’t from the same household; they weren’t wearing masks; and also, were in breach of social distancing regulations.

Gardaí also came across a case of a gym in South Galway being used by a number of people last week – also a breach of the Covid-19, Level-5 restrictions.

While Gardaí also received a number of calls about possible ‘pub-opening’ violations, on investigation, they found no sign of activity on the premises they checked out.

Galway Chief Garda Superintendent, Tom Curley, told the Connacht Tribune that overall, there was ‘a very high level of compliance’ as regards the travel restrictions which was ‘very encouraging’.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

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Connacht Tribune

Lessons learned on home-schooling

Denise McNamara



Cathal Moore, principal of the Presentation Athenry.

Home-schooling is working better this time round with many teachers conducting live classes and more students actively engaging than when schools closed suddenly last March.

But virtual education is a poor substitute for the experience of the classroom with students sorely missing social interaction, according to teachers, while parents are still struggling to balance working from home with ensuring their children keep up with the school work.

The sooner that schools can reopen safely the better for everyone – although most agree that it’s looking more likely to be after mid-term than at the beginning of February.

“Everybody is in a better place this time round – schools, teachers, parents and students. Everybody expected to be back at school. It’s no secret last time we got two hours’ notice but this time round we’re better prepared,” remarks the principal of the Presentation Athenry, Cathal Moore.

The mixed secondary school is doing a mix of live and recorded classes as not every student has good broadband.

After the first week, there was feedback from students that they felt there was too much homework in addition to the virtual classes while teachers reported that they would prefer more live communication from their charges.

“It is more tiring – fatigue is definitely a factor when on a screen all day and if this goes on for a prolonged amount of time it will creep in for a growing number of students.”

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

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Connacht Tribune

Hard-pressed hospitals down 450 staff over Covid

Dara Bradley



More than 450 staff – including nurses at UHG and Portiuncula – are now out of work due to Covid, as staff shortages threaten the public hospitals’ ability to cope with the crisis.

The upsurge has seen UHG deal with a record number of Covid-19 patients, and the hospital had to escalate its surge capacity plan and add extra beds in ICU.

The latest CSO figures reveal that the first week of the New Year was Galway’s deadliest yet on the pandemic front, with five lives lost over those opening seven days of 2021.

That brought the total number of virus fatalities in Galway to 25, and it’s understood there have been further deaths locally since then, which will be confirmed later.

From March to the end of November there were 20 deaths notified in Galway, and no further deaths were recorded in all of December.

News of Galway’s deadliest week comes as local leaders in the HSE, Garda, and local government joined forces to warn that Covid-19 was still spreading rapidly in the community.

Nationally, between January 5 and 18, there were 263 Covid-19 deaths recorded, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), which does not give a geographical breakdown. Of these deaths, 119 were hospitalised and 14 had been admitted to ICU.

The median age of all of Galway’s Covid fatalities is 83; the median age of the confirmed cases in Galway is 31 – the lowest of 26 counties.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

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