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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.


Councillors back bid to ban city centre parking in Galway



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have unanimously agreed to ask Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to limit parking to residents only in the city centre.

Pedestrians in the city are being treated like second-class citizens, according to the Mayor, who said cars continued to get the priority on Galway’s streets.

At a meeting of the City Council this week, Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said the city had come to a standstill in car traffic, and pedestrians and cyclists were suffering the consequences.

“At junctions, why am I a second-class citizen in my own city as a pedestrian? It rains in Galway for 300 days of the year, but I am a second-class citizen when priority is given to motorists.

“It’s always the pedestrian that waits,” she said, hitting out at the length it took to get a green light to cross at pedestrian crossings.

One way to reduce the number of cars in the city centre would be to limit parking to residents only in the city centre, said the Mayor.

In a motion she proposed, seconded by Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind), councillors unanimously agreed to write to the Minister for Transport to demand he pass the necessary legislation to enable the Council to do this.

The Mayor said residents were “sick, sore and tired” of people parking where they wanted when they visited the city and said despite a desire to introduce this measure going back almost 20 years, the Council was hamstrung by national legislation that prevented them from proceeding.

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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Planners approve homes for ‘cuckoo fund’ investor



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The green light has been given for the construction of 345 apartments at the Crown Square site in Mervue – the majority of which will be put on the rental market and operated by a ‘cuckoo fund’ for a minimum of fifteen years.

Crown Square Developments, which is owned by developer Padraic Rhatigan, has secured permission from An Bord Pleanála for the ‘Build to Rent’ development, with four blocks ranging ranging from four to nine storeys in height.

There will also be a neighbourhood facility with a gym, a primary care medical centre with pharmacy, a ‘working from home’ lounge, six shops, a games room and a creche.

There will be 240 two-bed apartments, 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds, all of which will be specifically for the rental market and not available to purchase.

A breakdown of the apartments shows there will be 240 two-beds; 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds.

To meet social housing requirements, the developer plans to transfer 35 of the apartments (20 two-bed, 10 one-bed and 5 three-bed) to Galway City Council.

A total of 138 car-parking spaces have been allocated on the lower basement levels of Crown Square for residents, along with shared access to another 109 spaces and another 13 for use by a ‘car club’. There will be 796 secure bicycle parking spaces to serve the apartments.

The Board has ordered that the apartments can only be used as long-term rentals, and none can be used for short-term lettings.

Under ‘Build to Rent’ guidelines, the development must be owned and operated by an institutional entity for a minimum period of 15 years and “where no individual residential units shall be sold separately for that period”. The 15-year period starts from the date of occupation of the first residential unit.

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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Councillors divided over vote on Salthill Prom cycleway



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to install a temporary two-way cycle lane along Salthill Promenade hangs in the balance, with city councillors split ahead of a vote next week.

On Monday night, the 18 city councillors will discuss Mayor Colette Connolly’s motion that the lane be installed on the coastal side of the road from Blackrock to a point opposite Galway Business School.

A poll of the councillors carried out by the Galway City Tribune yesterday found nine in favour of the proposal, with one indicating they will abstain. A simple majority is required and if there is a 9-9 split, the Mayor holds a ‘casting’ vote, effectively a second vote.

There has been a flurry of lobbying by cycling campaigners urging councillors to vote in favour, as well as some complaints from residents worried it will again impinge on their parking as visitors to Salthill seek somewhere to park up while they swim or walk along the most utilised resource the city has.

During lockdown, Gardaí removed parking on the Prom to deter people from gathering in a public space. This resulted in motorists blocking driveways and entering private estates, leading one estate off Threadneedle Road to hire a private clamping company.

Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) believes there are a maximum of 250 spaces that would be lost to the project on one side of the road as currently proposed, including seven disabled spaces, which could be reassigned close by.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the issue and to see how each councillor intends to vote, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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