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UHG rolls out major works programme

Denise McNamara

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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.

CITY TRIBUNE

Residents call in the clampers to sort problem parking

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in a Salthill estate have become tired of illegal parking outside their homes – and hired private clampers as a deterrent.

People living in Seamount off Threadneedle Road near Blackrock said they have been plagued by extra traffic and vehicles parking outside their homes, blocking access, during the latest Covid lockdown.

They said that since Galway City Council closed off the Prom to car parking, and closed the two public carparks, the cars have just migrated to Threadneedle Road and their estate.

Seamount is a private estate and the road has not been taken in charge by the Council. The residents have clubbed together and hired a clamping company, which will erect signs in the coming days and begin clamping illegally parked cars from next week.

Residents said they are also concerned that cars parked on Threadneedle Road are making it more difficult for buses to pass, and cause congestion.

A residents’ spokesperson said: “Since the lockdown, they closed off the Prom and closed off Salthill car park but people are still using the Prom and swimming off Blackrock. I have huge admiration for the swimmers, I do it myself when it’s warmer. But what’s happening is they park on both sides of Threadneedle Road, because there’re no yellow lines on either side of it and it’s not wide enough for cars to be parked either side of it, so buses are getting stuck.”
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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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG President’s upset at Covid breaches on campus

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – “I work in the hospital and we have had a really awful six weeks. We have nowhere to sit down and have our breaks. We are exhausted and would long to see family and friends. To see public health guidelines [being flouted] on NUIG property is a kick in the teeth.”

These are the words of an angry and frustrated healthcare worker at University Hospital Galway in a message sent to the head of NUIG.

President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh told students and staff at the university this week that he found it “deeply frustrating” that some students were flouting public health guidelines.

The HSE has confirmed that there were at least 441 cases of Covid in the city’s 18-24 age group – which has affected 224 households – in the past three weeks.

“Our neighbours contacted me expressing their upset at what they see as activities by our students that do not respect the health and safety of the community at large. People who work in the health service, people who have lost friends and relations to Covid-19. I share their upset.

“I was struck, for example, by one particularly heartfelt message from a local healthcare worker and campus user who shared their frustration with me last week on seeing groups congregating and socialising on campus grounds and which they agreed we could share,” Prof Ó hÓgartaigh said.

The head of the university shared the message in an email to students and staff this week, adding that students had expressed frustration that study spaces were not open on campus and at the challenges posed by the constricted spaces in which they study.

NUIG confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it had imposed sanctions on a number of students in relation to Covid breaches, while there have been none at GMIT.
This is a brief 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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CITY TRIBUNE

Principals band together for safer cycling infrastructure

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A total of 28 Galway City school principals have signed an open letter to the Minister for Transport and local councillors highlighting the need for safer cycling infrastructure around schools, to encourage students and staff to switch to bikes.

The push by Government to cycle or walk where possible during the pandemic has its limitations in a city where cycle lanes are rare and parents are too afraid to let their children cycle on narrow roads often choked with traffic.

A group of cycling enthusiasts in city schools has been campaigning to encourage the school community to engage with Galway City Council’s public consultation process for the next development plan which will have a key role in deciding whether cycling lanes or off-road cycle routes become a reality.

The first stage of the initial consultation process for the ‘City Development Plan 2023-2029, Your City, Your Future’ closes today (Friday). But the process will continue for two more years with more consultation encouraged once the draft plan is published.

This week a letter from 28 principals sent to councillors called for support for the provision of better cycle infrastructure in and around all schools. It has also been sent to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Galway West TD and Minister of State at Cabinet, Hildegarde Naughton.

“It is our view that existing road infrastructure around schools can be unsafe for children, teachers, and families who wish to cycle to school and we would like to encourage the development safe cycling routes in the future,” the letter states.

Principal of Coláiste na Coiribe, Eoghan Ó Ceallaigh, said it was important for the school community to get involved with the public consultation.

(Photo: Last year, the Council introduced a ‘School Streets’ pilot scheme at Scoil Iognáid, which bans cans during certain times, encouraging parents and children to walk or cycle. Schools now want proper cycling infrastructure put in place).
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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