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UHG rolls out major works programme



University Hospital Galway will be a hive of building activity over the next three years as the HSE moves units around in an expensive game of infrastructural chess in a bid to accommodate a constant increase in patients.

The two major priorities for UHG are to build a new emergency department and complete a 75-bed ward to take the pressure off that unit by early 2017, explained Saolta Hospital Group chief executive officer Maurice Power at last week’s Regional Health Forum West meeting.

Work on the 75-bed block beside the maternity unit began in July to build all single rooms.

No formal approval had been yet received to go to the design stage of a new emergency department. A cost benefit analysis had been submitted to the HSE and had received the support of various committees but written approval has yet to be secured, Mr Power told councillors.

However visits by politicians, including Health Minister Leo Varadkar, had ensured there was an understanding of the overcrowding there at the highest levels.

“Because of winter pressures in Galway, we don’t  have enough beds to put them [patients] in…the new unit will give us 75 more beds but we can’t wait until 2016. By mid-December we hope to have access to the physiotherapy unit to create an emergency ward with 30 beds.”

The physiotherapy unit will be relocated – outpatients will be seen in Merlin Park while inpatients will be treated by staff working in the social work department. The social work staff have also been moved elsewhere on the site.

The surgical day ward was being used as an overflow for patients in the emergency department, which resulted in elective procedures being cancelled.

Once the emergency ward was opened that should free up the surgical day ward for elective procedures, he stated.

Tony Canavan, recently appointed chief officer for Galway Mayo Roscommon community services within the Saolta Group, outlined the range of new developments for the hospital campus.

A new radiation oncology unit was being created where the adult mental health unit was located. A new acute mental health unit is being built to replace the old one on the site of an existing staff car park.

To replace those car spaces, a two-deck car park is currently under construction and is expected to be operational early 2016. This is a replacement staff car park and is being built on the site of existing surface car parking.

The helipad was moved temporarily from beside the paediatric unit to the Community Park in Shantalla during the building works.

Initially the helipad was scheduled to be in the park for 6 months, but is now likely to be there until the end of next February – 18 months after the temporary landing pad was set up.

In answer to questions from Headford Councillor Mary Hoade, the HSE revealed 1,714 elective procedures were deferred or cancelled, half of them by the hospital due to overcapacity or a lack of staff.

The Fianna Fáil representative said she knew of one child with special needs who has had an elective procedure cancelled several times at very last minute, causing great distress to the family.

During her 11-year tenure as a councillor, she has heard constantly about the need for a new emergency department without the slightest progress being made.

“It’s time to get the national steering group making a decision. There’s terrible pressure on staff in the emergency department. We saw the pressure in July, God only knows what it’s going to be like this winter.”

Cllr Catherine Connolly said the hospital should follow the lead of the national children’s hospital and create a proper hospital on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital which boasted 140 acres in a city location.


Galway City centre streets to be dug up – yet again



From this Week’s Galway City Tribune – Just days after the annual tourist season kicked off with the St Patrick’s weekend festivities, an area of the city’s main throughfare is to be dug up yet again.

The City Council confirmed this week that “upgrade works” at the junction between High Street, Shop Street and Mainguard Street are to commence next week, drawing the ire of local business people and residents.

One local councillor and businessman said the works, which brought huge disruption while being carried out on other stretches of the route in recent years, should have been carried out while footfall was lower in January and February.

Cllr Níall McNelis told the Galway City Tribune that business people in the area were outraged at the news, and despite assurances from the Council that the works would be done “without major disruptions”, bitter experience has taught them otherwise.

“They’re outraged, to be blunt. They just can’t believe this is happening now,” he said.

“Everyone understands that these works are necessary, but this is going to take weeks out of what should be one of their busiest times.”

Works in the area were left incomplete as a result of the visit of Britain’s Prince William and Catherine in 2019.

In a statement issued by the Council, Director of Services Patrick Greene said the works should be “substantially completed by early June”.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the March 24 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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What a melt: proposed bylaws put 20-minute limit on ice cream vans in Galway!



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Ice cream vans will only be allowed to sell to the public for 20 minutes before being obliged to move on to a different location if proposed new bylaws for casual trading in Galway are adopted.

The 2023 regulations to replace the 2011 bylaws will also outlaw any single use plastic products to be given out or sold by stall holders, including bottles, cutlery, containers, single use sachets, plates and straws. Compostable or reusable alternatives must be used instead of single use plastics.

The maximum time that the ice cream mobile unit can be stationary at any one location is 20 minutes.

Traders will avoid huge cost increases seen elsewhere – it will cost €267.50 annually per bay for Eyre Square (up marginally from €250). In St Nicholas’ Market it will be €69.50 per linear metre – generally equating to €139 for regular size pitches, an increase of €9.

Stall holders will again have to buy a separate licence to trade on Sundays and for the market Wednesday to Friday in July and August. But they will be able to set up shop for free at Christmas if they hold a licence for Saturday or Sunday.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read more on the draft Casual Trading Bylaws, see the March 24 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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€450m Emergency Dept and Women and Children’s block at UHG



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Inadequate resuscitation capacity and overall space, as well as isolation from ICU, diagnostics and theatres along are part of the HSE’s rationale for building a new €450 million Emergency Department and Women’s and Children’s block on the grounds of UHG.

The health authority is hoping the new development could commence construction in 2026 and be completed in early 2029, and the Galway City Tribune has learned it would have operational costs in the region of €40 million per annum.

According to the HSE, the existing Temporary Emergency Department – which opened its doors last October – there is inadequate space for the 70,000 attendances each year.

This includes “a lack of facilities for isolation, mental health, gynaecology, limited paediatric ED accommodation with significant resuscitation capacity to meet emergencies and trauma”, HSE documentation reads.

The ED has also fallen well short of national targets for Patient Experience Time – that 95% of all patients should be see or admitted or discharged within six hours and 100% within nine hours.

In UHG, the figures for 2020 were 13% and 44% respectively, due to what the HSE describes as “sub-optimal infrastructure, design and consequently poor patient flow and capacity limitations”.

The HSE also noted the existing Women’s and Children’s services operate from “poor quality, mainly single-storey buildings from 1950s and 1960s dispersed across the site with no direct access to the ED, isolated from vital healthcare services such as critical care, diagnostics and theatres”.

Theatre capacity was described as “inadequate” for UHG’s catchment of around 323,000 people from Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. The population for the wider Saolta University Healthcare Group, for which UHG is the tertiary or specialised care hospital, is estimated at 830,000.

The HSE said the new building would allow for a dedicated paediatric ward, adolescent beds (up to 16th birthday) and ambulatory facilities, “located closer to the critical medical infrastructure of the hospital”.

This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article and for details on the cause of a “foul odours” problem on the hospital grounds, see the March 24 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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