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Galway’s public hospital waiting lists grow to 51,000 people



Waiting lists for outpatients and inpatients/day cases at University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park are continuing to grow – more than 51,000 people are now on the lists to see a consultant at the two city hospitals.

More people are waiting on the inpatient lists in the city than for any other hospital in the country, while only the Mater in Dublin has a worse outpatients list.

Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish described the figures as ‘unacceptable’ and pointed out that many people waiting for treatment have had to put their lives on hold due to the severity of their conditions.

Many of the patients – who are suffering from serious and debilitating conditions – are faced with lengthy delays for an initial appointment with a consultation, and those figures continue to grow.

A Galway City Tribune analysis of the official figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) shows that at the end of June, there were 7,281 people waiting 18 months or longer for their first outpatient appointment at Galway University Hospitals (both UHG and Merlin combined).

That is up from 5,433 – an increase of just over one third – from the same time last year.

This week, the Galway City Tribune publishes the full breakdown of the lists, by speciality, for the city’s two public hospitals. The lists include outpatients and inpatients/day cases.

The NTPF figures show there are 42,240 people on the waiting list for an outpatient appointment at GUH – that’s up around 8% from 39,184 one year ago.

Around 17% of those people are on the waiting list for 18 months or longer, up from 9% a year ago.

The outpatients list for GUH is the second worst in the country – only the Mater in Dublin has a longer list, with 44,478 people. The next longest lists are in UH Limerick at 35,749 and Tallaght Hospital at 32,656.

The longest waiting lists at Galway City’s two public hospitals are in the areas of orthopaedics (5,586 people); urology (3,740); ENT – Ear, Nose, Throat (3,225); neurology (3,011) and oral surgery (2,970).

For inpatient and day care cases (these are patients waiting for an appointment date for their treatment), GUH is making inroads on the waiting list. There are 8,918 on the waiting list, down 13% from 10,271 a year ago. A total of 1,142 (13%) are waiting 18+ months compared to 1,629 (16%) last year.

The longest waits were in the areas of orthopaedicas (1,297 people); plastic surgery (1,114); ophthamology (1,027); urology (926) and pain relief (886).

There are 104 people on the orthopaedics waiting list who have been waiting more than 18 months; 377 for plastic surgery and 37 on the ophthamology list.

The next longest inpatient list in the country is in Beaumont, with 6,044 people, followed by the Mater at 5,946 and UH Waterford at 5,459.

The NTPF figures also record those patients who have been given a scheduled date for their admission – these are categorised separately as ‘TCI’ (To Come In) – at the moment, there are 1,522 such cases in GUH.

Of these, 1,155 have been waiting less than three months to get their admission date; 154 between three and six months; 57 for six to nine months and 27 for more than 18 months.

There are 262 people at GUH who are waiting for a planned procedure – these are patients who have had a treatment and require additional treatment at a future date (for example, a patient who has had a scope and may require follow-up surveillance monitoring in the future).

Of these, 133 have been given an indicative date in the future and 47 with a date in the past.

Indicative dates are determined by the clinician and treatment before these dates is not regarded as appropriate.

There are 5,394 people waiting on a gastrointestinal endoscopy at GUH – 3,119 of these have been given an indicative date in the future and a further 2,138 with an indicative date in the past.

Reacting to the latest figures, Deputy Noel Grealish said that what was most disturbing was the 34% increase in just one year in the number of people waiting 18 months or more for treatment as an outpatient.

“To have almost 7,300 people, many of them no doubt in considerable pain, being forced to wait more than a year and half just to be seen by a consultant for the first time is simply unacceptable in 2019.

“While the overall outpatient waiting lists for treatment in Galway increased by 8% over the past year, the increase in long-term waits was many times that, up by more than one third of what the total was this time last year.

“That’s an increase, in the space of just a year, of more 1,800 patients waiting more than 18 months to get the treatment they need, people who may have had to put their lives on hold due to the severity of their conditions.”

Deputy Grealish said that one of the most striking increases in long-term waits was faced by people requiring dermatology treatment — their numbers jumped from just 40 in June 2018, to 615 now.

Other areas for which waiting times of 18 months or more had greatly increased over the past year include urology (+370), neurology (+244), general medicine (doubled with an increase of 182), while the numbers waiting long-term for plastic surgery increased from just two last year to 71 now.

“There seems to be a very disturbing trend developing here, particularly in certain specialities, of rapidly increasing long-term waits for treatment to which people are entitled,” said Deputy Grealish.

He added that one notable exception was in the area of rheumatology, where the numbers waiting 18-plus months had been halved, with a 210 reduction since last year. And he welcomed the fact that long-term waiting lists for inpatient treatment had reduced by 10% in Galway over the past year.

HSE blames industrial action for waiting list rise

According to a statement issued by the HSE’s Saolta Group to the Galway City Tribune, the NTPF figures showed a decrease in the number of patients waiting for inpatient or day case procedures in the Saolta Group between June 2018 and June 2019. At GUH, the number of patients waiting reduced from 10,271 to 8,919 and this included a reduction in the number of patients waiting 18+ months.

“However, the number of patients awaiting outpatient appointments increased in the past year. Capacity restrictions both from a clinical and a physical space point of view are two of the most significant challenges faced by GUH.

“In addition, there is continued growth in demand for outpatient services nationally with an increase of 4% referrals year on year and this year industrial action has adversely impacted outpatient services.

“We regret that patients have to wait for their appointments. Every effort is made to maximise capacity and to ensure timely access to treatment and care for our patients with additional clinics being set up as and when possible. We will continue to work with the NTPF on initiatives to deliver additional outpatient appointments in 2019.

“Initiatives to improve capacity at GUH include: In 2018/2019 additional clinics were set up for Plastic Surgery ‘see and treat’ and ENT and planning is underway for an ENT clinic and Dermatology; Physiotherapy Musculoskeletal (MSK) triage by Advanced Practice Physiotherapists who assess patients with soft tissue, bone or joint complaints. 70% of patients are seen and discharged with the remainder referred on to an Orthopaedic Surgeon or Rheumatologist. From January to May this year 1,184 patients were seen by this service.

“The hospital group is leading out nationally on the Urology Pathways of Care project addressing three prioritised areas: Haematuria, Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) and Incontinence management. The direct access ‘one stop’ haematuria service at Roscommon University Hospital is being piloted with a view to reducing waiting times to less than nine months and to free up capacity in GUH.

“The development of Advanced Nurse Practitioners to run their own clinics which provides additional capacity. Text reminders are used to reduce the number of patients who do not turn up. Validation of the waiting lists in GUH is also carried out by the National Validation Unit,” the HSE statement reads.

The inpatient and outpatient waiting lists for UHG and Merlin Park


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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