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Galway hospitals owed almost €8m by health insurers



Cash-strapped Galway University Hospitals is owed more than €7.8 million by private health insurers because consultants won’t sign off on paperwork.

The Galway City Tribune can reveal that Merlin Park Hospital and University Hospital Galway (UHG) are owed a total of €7.890 million by private health insurers.

Nationally, according to new Health Service Executive (HSE) figures, more than €70 million is owing to all hospitals across the country at a time when the health service is facing a budget deficit of €63 million.

GUH, which includes the two city public hospitals, has the highest level of health insurance claims in the country that are awaiting payment as of March 31 of this year.

The next ‘worst’ offenders in terms of insurance claims owing to hospitals is University Hospital Limerick (€6.3 million) and St James’ Hospital (€5.7 million).

The figures show that almost €1m is owing to Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe (€981,843), while Mayo General Hospital is owed almost €1.4 million and Roscommon General Hospital is owed €71,908.

Chairperson of the West Regional Health Forum, City Councillor Pádraig Conneely (Fine Gael), slammed consultants for being slow to sign off on the necessary paperwork that would allow insurance companies to ‘cough up’.

Councillor Conneely, who has consistently highlighted this issue, said it was scandalous that highly-paid doctors at Galway’s two public hospitals continue to ‘drag their heels’ on paperwork.

Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly said: “The matter of the amounts owed by private insurance companies is monitored on an ongoing basis and is the subject of ongoing discussions between the HSE and the private insurers.

“In recent years the HSE has introduced a number of initiatives to improve the claims collection process and facilitate faster submission of claims to accelerate income collection within the public hospital system. In particular the HSE has tasked hospitals with bringing down the value of claims awaiting consultant action and targeting the highest value claims.

“The HSE has agreed proposals with the two consultant representative bodies committing consultants to expeditious processing and signing of claims for submission to the private insurers,” said Minister Reilly.

He said that the speed of HSE claims submissions has “improved” and that a backlog in claims relating to 2012 and 2013, which amounted to about €28 million has also been cleared.

In addition, he said: “A national electronic claims management handling system over 77% of value of claims was live in 24 hospitals in December 2013. A further 23 hospitals will go live this year. National income reporting was refined and is being further developed to include hospital group reporting.”

Minister Reilly said the introduction of electronic claims management system would “streamline” the claims collection process and will ensure that standardised work practices are implemented across all hospitals.

The total amount owed to all hospitals in the country as of March 31, 2014 was €70.1 million; while at the same time the HSE nationally is reporting a €63 million hole in its annual budget, and hospitals, including in Galway, are facing further cutbacks.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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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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