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Galway hospitals run up €11m debt



The two Galway public hospitals were €11m over budget by the end of July, accounting for the largest deficit run up by any hospital in the region.

In an article published in the Saolta hospital group newsletter, acting group chief financial officer Tony Baynes revealed that the hospitals as a whole were nearly €29m in the red, which is €5m worse than the same time last year.

University Hospital Galway (UHG) and Merlin Park Hospital had spent €168.5m until the end of July when they only had earmarked €157m.

Pay costs were the biggest factor in the overspend, with wages accounting for nearly €16m of an overrun.

Agency costs for medical and support services staff increased significantly on 2014. Support services workers – mainly hired to look after patients who required one-on-one care – had jumped by €1.5m in a year.

Cllr Mary Hoade told this week’s Regional Health Forum West meeting that the HSE had stated nationally that 82% of its agency staff budget had been used by the end of May.

Chief officer for Galway Mayo Roscommon community services within the Saolta Hospital Group said they operated a staff budget rather than an agency budget.

The two Galway hospitals had hired 80 staff nurses since the beginning of the year and another 27 had been interviewed in the last month. A further 17 staff nurses were returning from the UK to take up posts in December, he stated.

Mr Baynes revealed that other costs such as drugs, medical supplies and

private ambulances had shot up by €14m over the seven months.

Patient debt was another cause of concern for the group’s finances, with patients across the seven hospitals racking up debts of €77m – up €8.5m since the end of last year.

The only positive element in the books was the €2m hike in group income, he outlined.

However a further €35m in income was stalled due to consultants failing to sign off on claims – a long-running problem for the HSE which was raised at the meeting by the Forum chairman, Cllr Tom McNamara from Clare.

All hospitals in the group – the two in Galway, Letterkenny, Sligo, Mayo, Portiuncla and Roscommon – had experienced a jump in private ambulance use. Some 2,239 trips were paid for in the first five months of this year, an increase of 34%.

Mr Baynes said this was due to a decrease of eleven available ambulances.

In answer to a question by Tuam area Councillor Donagh Killilea (FF), the HSE revealed that 11 ambulance staff had left the service before the age of retirement over four years.

The ambulance base in Tuam had eight staff on duty, which allowed for round-the-clock cover but without relief staff. These were drawn from other crews across the west of Ireland. Approval had been given for a further four staff, which would be recruited over the next 18 months.

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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