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HSE tight-lipped on controversial doctor’s references



One of the top executives in the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the West would not clarify whether University Hospital Galway (UHG) failed to seek a reference from a junior doctor’s previous hospital where he was let go due to concerns over his medical skills.

At a Regional Health Forum West meeting, Councillor Padraig Conneely again raised the issue of Dr Omar Hassan, who was taken off on-call duty at Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise days after his appointment before he took up a position with UHG.

Cllr Conneely claimed at last month’s meeting that UHG had given a glowing reference to Dr Hassan and he went on to work in two other public hospitals and a number of private facilities between 2012 and 2014, despite “not knowing his ankle from his elbow”.

The native of Sudan was found guilty of 28 counts of poor professional performance and six counts of professional misconduct in late January. Sanctions have yet to be handed down. His medical registration had been suspended before the hearing.

Cllr Conneely asked about a report prepared by the HSE for Health Minister Leo Varadkar on how the medical recruitment procedures had led to the junior doctor being employed successively by the HSE.

The Irish Times claimed the report found that UHG did not seek a reference from Portlaoise for Dr Hassan, who instead provided three references unrelated to his employment in the midlands.

The organisation planned to work with recruitment managers to set up a standard policy regarding references and Garda vetting for all non-consultant hospital doctors, according to the document.

Cllr Conneely said at the last meeting the Chief Officer for Galway Mayo Roscommon community services within the Saolta Hospital Group, Tony Canavan, did not give information about references for the senior house office.

“You said you didn’t know. I can’t get answers here. I have to read about them in the newspaper. It says you got no references at all.”

Mr Canavan said the issue was outside the remit of the Forum.

The Fine Gael Councillor said he took it by that answer that the HSE had not sought references.

“Outside the remit? It’s in the national interest. You have a doctor working in a public hospital who didn’t know his ankle from his elbow.”

UHG consultant Odhran Murray told the medical council inquiry that Dr Hassan mistook an x-ray of an ankle for an image of an elbow during a training session with colleagues.

Mr Murray also recalled an instance where Dr Hassan recontaminated his hands by touching a non-sterile area while scrubbing up, at odds with basic medical procedures.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Aiden Devitt stated that two colleagues had checked whether Dr Hassan was actually a registered medical doctor because he was “so far off the scale” in terms of his competencies.

Mr Devitt told Dr Hassan who was defending himself: “If you pulled someone off the street they would make a better fist of it than you did.”

The inquiry heard that Dr Hassan kept attempting to insert a tube into a patient’s arm even when unable to find a vein.

Colleagues expressed concern that Hassan did not appear to be aware of the importance of ruling out non-accidental injuries in children, and had suggested that a young child was a “fake” patient.

He was described as being “aggressive” and “intimidating” with one mother, while he caused a burn injury to another patient during surgery.

Cllr Conneely said he would submit questions on the issue at the next meeting.


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.

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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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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