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Eight-week wait for kids’ mental health appointments



Children and adolescents in Galway are waiting eight weeks to access mental health services – twice the HSE target wait.

Figures released by the HSE show that young people in Galway are waiting eight weeks for an appointment date with Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, and the service remains “some way off reaching the target” of four weeks as standard.

HSE figures show that in July, the longest wait for an appointment was in Tallaght at 13 weeks, followed by Cork and Meath at 10 weeks; Limerick, Clondalkin and North Fingal at 7 weeks; Dublin City and Donegal (6 weeks); Dublin 15 (4 weeks); Roscommon and Offaly (3 weeks) and Kerry (one week).

Sinn Féin councillor Mairéad Farrell said that the recruitment and retention crisis in the area of child and adolescent mental health services is one of the most worrying parts of the crisis gripping the health service.

“Nowhere is the recruitment and retention crisis in the health service having a more devastating impact than in the area of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

“In an area where there are 2,700 children waiting to be seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, there is a staggering 13 vacant consultant posts and a shortage of psychiatric nurses.

“Indeed, figures released to my colleague Louise O’Reilly TD – Sinn Féin’s Dáil Spokesperson on Health – by the HSE have shown that one third of children’s mental health beds are currently closed due to staff shortages. That means that of the 74 beds in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Units across the State only 50 are actually open ‘due to staff shortages’.

“The HSE also revealed that there are significant wait times for counselling appointments with Jigsaw, the mental health service that provides vital supports to young people. While demand for the Jigsaw service continues to grow the provision of resources has not kept pace.

“As a result, in Galway at present there is a waiting time of eight weeks or 40 days for mental health services, twice the target they themselves have set of four working weeks.

“Every expert in child and adolescent mental health will tell you that early intervention is absolutely vital in avoiding enduring and worsening problems in the future.

“Yet, these figures reveal that if a child or young person seeks out care they are in all likelihood going to be faced with an extended waiting period which puts them and their mental health at a very serious risk.

“We know that when CAMHS and Jigsaw are able to assess and care for young people they do an excellent job with often extremely good results. However, currently, this is often not possible because of shortages in funding, neglect of the services by government, and the pervading recruitment and retention crisis in the health service.

“We need to see dedicated action in the area of mental health to attract new staff, to keep the excellent staff we have, to reopen closed beds, and to reduce waiting times. This is quite literally lifesaving treatment and it is currently not readily available for those that need it,” said Cllr Farrell.

The HSE said: “Jigsaw does not operate a ‘waiting list’ in the same way as some other services. Every young person who is referred and for whose needs the service is appropriate is offered and appointment date.

“The target is to offer every young person an appointment within 20 working days (four working weeks) of the date of referral. Jigsaw remain some way off reaching that target, despite considerable work in introducing initiatives to make most efficient use of clinical resources (for example a standardised appointment scheduling system).

“Jigsaw monitor activity levels to ensure that they are working to capacity and offering as many appointments as possible. In the year to date (January to June) they achieved 95% of their target in terms of number of appointments offered. However, demand for services continues to grow (47% increase in referrals compared with the same period last year),” the HSE said.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge



The new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will be officially opened to the public next Friday, May 26.

Work on the €10 million bridge got underway in April 2022, before the main structure was hoisted into place in early December.

A lunchtime tape-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, as the first pedestrians and cyclists traverse the as-yet-unnamed bridge.

The Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, previously said the bridge, once opened, would remove existing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic “as well as facilitating the Cross-City Link public transport corridor over the existing 200-year-old bridge”.

The naming of the new bridge has been under discussion by the Council’s Civic Commemorations Committee since late last year.

One name that has been in the mix for some time is that of the first woman in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree – Alice Perry.

Ms Perry, who was from Wellpark, graduated from Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway) in 1906. The university’s engineering building is named in her honour.

The bridge was built by Jons Civil Engineering firm in County Meath and was assembled off-site before being transported to Galway. Funding for the project was provided in full by the National Transport Authority and the European Regional Development Fund.

(Photo: Sheila Gallagher captured the city’s new pedestrian footbridge being raised on the south side of the Salmon Weir Bridge in December. It will officially open next Friday, May 26).

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Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell was labelled a “disgrace” for overturning councillors’ decisions to rezone land in the new City Development Plan.

Minister O’Donnell (pictured) confirmed in a letter to Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath last week that he was reversing 25 material alternations made by councillors to the CDP 2023-29. He made the decision on the advice of Office of Planning Regulator (OPR).

Minister O’Donnell directed that 14 land parcels that were subject to land-use zoning changes by councillors as part of the Material Alterations to the Draft CDP should be reversed.

He directed that a further 11 land parcels in the city should become “unzoned”.

The Minister found that the CDP had not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the OPR, which required specific changes to the plan to ensure consistency with the national planning laws and guidelines.

At last week’s Council meeting Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked for clarity on the process by which councillors could rezone the lands that had been changed by the Minister’s direction.

Cllr Declan McDonnell said, “What he [Minister O’Donnell] has done is an absolute disgrace”.

And he asked: “Do we have to have another development plan meeting to deal with it?”

Both Cllrs Hoare and McDonnell wondered what would become of the lands that were rezoned or unzoned by the ministerial direction.

Mr McGrath said the Council had put forward an argument in favour of retaining the material alterations in the plan, but ultimately the Minister sided with OPR.

He said if councillors want to make alterations to the new plan, they could go through the process of making a material alteration but this was lengthy.

The Save Roscam Peninsula campaign welcomed the Minister’s decision.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, it said the direction would mean the Roscam village area on the Roscam Peninsula will be unzoned and a number of land parcels would revert back to agriculture/high amenity.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “the material alterations made by city councillors following lobbying by developers continued the long-standing practice of councillors facilitating a developer-led plan rather than an evidence- and policy-based plan that meets the needs of the city.

“The Minister’s direction is an important step in restoring confidence in the planning system. It is clear from the City Council’s own evidence on future housing projections that there was no requirement to zone these lands for residential purposes in order to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029,” the spokesperson added.

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