The Minister of State at the Department of Health has said it is “strange” that GPs from Moycullen and Oughterard have been refused entry to the Westdoc out-of-hours service and will raise the issue with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
However, the local GP service has said that it has already been refused “urgently increased funding” under the Sláinte Care initiative which it needs to grow the service.
Minister Mary Butler has agreed there are “huge challenges” in providing GP and out-of-hours services in this country, particularly in rural areas.
She was responding to issues raised in the Seanad by Galway-based senator Sean Kyne, who has called for Westdoc to be expanded to include Moycullen, Rosscahill and Oughterard and that investment in GP services needs to be increased.
“We do not invest adequately in primary care services in Ireland and a much greater portion of our overall health budget should be invested in primary care. The funding should recognise the unique relationships between GPs and their patients. It should prioritise care in the community and strive for outcomes that avoid ever having to attend crowded emergency departments or acute hospitals.
“Areas such as Corrandulla and Oughterard in Galway, among others, have been left without a service or with a diminished service, forcing local people to travel to attend a GP. And this only relates to weekday GP services, the situation in respect of out-of-hours services is even more troubling. Despite the efforts of GPs serving the Moycullen, Rosscahill and Oughterard communities, among other areas, local GPs are still not included in the Westdoc service.
“The local GPs serving the Moycullen, Rosscahill and Oughterard areas are working flat out to provide a service out of hours and at weekends for their local communities. The HSE is currently, and I must emphasise that this is during a pandemic, providing locum cover on a one-in-five basis but only in the short term with no commitment to maintaining this provision into the future.
“In many areas, over 90% of doctors are covered by out-of-hours services. In the area that I am talking about, the eastern part of Connemara, that coverage is barely over 60%. It is unfair, unsafe and unsound. The local community and GPs deserve better.
“More funding must be provided to Westdoc for its expansion in order that all communities are covered and have the certainty of a comprehensive GP service 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Senator Kyne.
He said he had been contacted by GPs who were refused entry to Westdoc.
““I have been contacted by Moycullen and Oughterard GPs, who have been refused entry to Westdoc and have requested intervention. To put this into context, they say that when they are on call, they are on call for 48 hours every fourth weekend and every fourth night, as well as providing full weekday services. As one can imagine, that is a very onerous task for them to undertake, both physically and mentally in terms of their own well-being, but also in relation to that of patients. A more sustainable model needs to be put in place and the funding must be provided for access to the Westdoc service for this local area,” said Senator Kyne.
Minister Butler responded: “I take on board the point made by Senator Kyne that some doctors have applied to join the out-of-hours co-operative, and I will take that back to the Minister. I find it hard to understand why, when there is a shortage of doctors, they are finding it difficult to access a co-operative. It is strange.
“Funding for the service is provided through a service level arrangement with HSE community healthcare organisation, CHO2. In 2020, this organisation received almost €3.9 million in funding through this arrangement. In 2019, in addition to the funding allocated through the service level arrangement, HSE primary care operations allocated an additional sum of €150,000 to CHO2 for the provision of extra staffing for the GP rota in rural areas.
“I understand that CHO2 engaged directly with Westdoc to ensure that this funding was allocated to the area of greatest priority within that service, extending weekend cover in north Connemara, south Connemara and Achill.
“It is acknowledged that the Westdoc service does not extend to certain rural areas within the region, and that additional funding would be required to extend the service that is currently being provided. I understand that this places additional pressures on GPs in the area,” said Minister Butler.
Senator Kyne said he will push it at local level to try and secure additional funding for Westdoc and get admission to the doctors serving the Moycullen, Rosscahill and Oughterard areas.
In response to queries from the Connacht Tribune, Brian O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of Westdoc issued the following statement: “Westdoc provides Urgent Out Of Hours GP Care to one of the largest geographic areas in the Country, namely Galway Mayo and Roscommon. Westdoc strives at all time to increase membership and service across the three counties.
“Westdoc cannot expand any further without increased funding and to this end met with Minister Simon Harris last year to brief him on the situation in the West of Ireland and how urgently increased funding was required. He accepted our concerns and suggested we apply for such funding from a newly-launched Sláinte Care initiative. This we did but sadly were unsuccessful in our application. Westdoc will continue to pursue additional funding required, working very closely with the HSE.”
Paedophile for sentencing after arrest in Ceannt Station
A man will be sentenced in December for arranging to meet a child at Ceannt Station for the purpose of sexual assault.
In the meantime, Michael Sheridan, from Cormeelick South, Milltown, must not attempt to use the internet or any other means of communication to contact any child, as set down in conditions attached to his bail.
The 63-year-old pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last Friday week to attempting to communicate with a child by means of information and communication technology within the State, for the purposes of facilitating the sexual exploitation of the child on dates between March 20 and May 26, 2018, contrary to Common Law and Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.
He also pleaded guilty to attempting to meet the child on May 27, 2018, at Ceannt Railway Station in Eyre Square, having communicated by any means with the child, and did so on at least a previous occasion, and did so for the purpose of doing something that would constitute the sexual exploitation of the child, namely sexual assault of the child, contrary to Common Law. The sex of the child referred to in the charges was not revealed in court.
In reply to Judge Rory McCabe, prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke said there was no need to order a victim impact statement prior to sentence taking place as there was no victim ‘in the real sense’ in the case.
By consent with Bernard Madden SC, defending, sentence was adjourned to December 15 next, when the prosecution will outline the facts in the case against Sheridan.
His free legal aid certificate was extended to cover the cost of a medical report for mitigation purposes.
Judge McCabe also directed the preparation of a probation report at Mr Madden’s request and remanded Sheridan on continuing bail with the existing conditions attached to appear back before the court in December for sentence.
Bail was initially granted in the District Court on condition Sheridan surrender his passport and not apply for a new one or any other travel documents; sign on twice a week at Tuam Garda Station; provide a mobile phone number to Gardai and answer his phone to Gardaí at all times; undertake to the court not to make any contact with any child by any means, to include social media; and not to access the internet at any stage pending completion of the case.
Final outing for Your County, Your Colours – to honour an old colleague
It was a simple idea well executed – to deliver 32 GAA county jerseys to frontline workers in a hospital or care home in thanks for their dedication during Covid – but before the dust settled on Your County, Your Colours, there was one final and very special delivery to be made.
It is now nine years since a completely unprovoked attack left Tuam man Shane Grogan with life-changing injuries that mean he still requires round-the-clock medical care today.
Before that vicious assault, Shane was a popular member of staff with Merit Medical – who just happened to be the sponsors of the Your County, Your Colours project, dreamt up by Galway Bay FM commentator and former Galway footballer, Tommy Devane.
The team at Merit had one final request – to deliver a special, framed Galway jersey to Shane and the staff at Greenpark Nursing Home, where Shane has lived for some time.
Karen Smyth, Communications Leader with Merit Medical, said that the staff at Merit Medical had never forgotten Shane.
“We see Your County, Your Colours as a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of the frontline workers in Greenpark,” she said.
“This is just a small token of appreciation of their efforts; they do an amazing job – not just during the pandemic but every day,” she added.
Shane’s dad Joe relayed his thanks to Merit Medical for this presentation – with a special word to the Accounts Department, where Shane worked prior to his accident.
“They have always kept Shane foremost in their thoughts and hopefully, the visits will start again soon!” he said.
The original idea, as envisaged by Tommy Devane, was to honour the tireless efforts of frontline workers across the country during the pandemic.
So he has asked all 32 counties to supply one county jersey accompanied by a short message of thanks. The jersey along with their message was then framed and sent to the hospital or care setting of the county’s choice.
Greenpark Nursing Home Director of Nursing Brian McNamara thanked Merit Medical and Tommy Devane for what he called this wonderful gift.
“We are honoured to have been thought of in this manner and it is our privilege to look after Merit’s colleague Shane Grogan,” he said.
“In our caring for Shane, there will always be a special bond between Merit Medical and Greenpark Nursing Home,” he added.
(Photo: Shane Grogan (centre) with his parents Joe and Joan behind him, accepting his signed Galway jersey, joined by (from left) the McNamara family – Jane, Cora, Director of Nursing Brian and Ian – of Greenpark Nursing Home; Shane’s physical therapist Johnathan Gibson, Merit Medical’s Karen Smyth and Mark Butler, and Tommy Devane, organiser of Your County, Your Colours).
Teacher has sights set on passing ultimate Ironman test
It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted and it pretty much eats up all of your spare time – but for Claregalway schoolteacher, Rachel Farrell, the Ironman 70.3 world championship test in September is something she just cannot wait for.
Rachel (28) has always been bitten by the sports and fitness bug, being a competitive swimmer and badminton player from her school days, but now she is concentrating on what’s called the Ironman 70.3.
The 70.3 part of the title refers to the total distance in miles that competitors will cover between the swim, cycle and running legs of the event.
It works out at half the distance of the full Ironman Triathlon but that still adds up to one huge challenge for those brave enough to take it on.
The first part of the endurance test is a 1.9-kilometre (1.2 miles) swim followed by a 90km cycle (56 miles) and then a half-marathon run (21.1km or 13.1 miles).
“I did my first Ironman 70.3 in France in 2019 and the Utah event on September 17 next is actually the 2020 world championships which couldn’t be held last year because of the Covid situation.
“The course in Utah is by all accounts a pretty gruelling one and the conditions there will be tough too, but I’ve prepared well for it and am looking forward to the challenge,” said Rachel.
She will be competing in the 25 to 29 age category and in the France event two years ago, Rachel notched a top 49 finish – the target this time around is for a top-20 finishing slot.
The daughter of Josette and Hugh Farrell, Rachel is currently a secondary schoolteacher in Dubai who is hoping to travel to Utah about a week before the event to help her acclimatise to the heat and desert like conditions of the US state.
Even the journey to get there will be a mission itself with Dubai the starting off point followed by stop-offs at Elay and Las Vegas.
Rachel is pretty much committed to an all-year round preparation programme based on a four-week rota system – three weeks of intense training followed by one week of scaled down activity.
“When I was in Oman back in 2018 and the event was held there it just caught my interest. I put in on my bucket list and really enjoyed the one in France in 2019.
“I’m not sure whether I’ll keep doing them or not – I might just concentrate on swimming or cycling events into the future – but for the moment, Utah is the goal and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Rachel.