Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us


HSE underspends on mental health by €15m



New figures released by the Health Service Executive (HSE) show they spent nearly €15.5 million less on Galway mental health services than they had allocated in their budget over the last four years.

Yet they did not adversely affect patients, the agency insisted.

Last year alone there was an underspend of €6m in the sector in Galway.

The business manager for the HSE, Anne O’Neill, stated the savings were due to changes in drug prescribing, reduction in absenteeism, reduction in overtime and agency costs and reduced on call payments.

They were made as part of a major reconfiguration for mental health services under the Government’s A Vision for Change policy.

“For all of these reasons, the underspend did not have a negative impact but occurred in association with a growth and development of services in recent years with additional staff appointments and a range of new services introduced,” said Ms O’Neill.

“An important element of this reconfiguration process is an increased emphasis on the development of community based care. This change in the way we deliver services has reduced acute bed occupancy days in tandem with increased provision of community based alternatives,” she stated in a letter to Galway East TD Colm Keaveney.

“Galway/Roscommon has been successful in securing a significant number of new posts which are being used to enhance community mental health teams and address suicide and self harm and requirements in emergency departments.”

However the reasons given for savings of this magnitude did not ring true for the Fianna Fáil spokesman for mental health.

“Even if savings of such a scale could have been achieved, any savings achieved should have been retained in the Galway mental health services and used to enhance the care being provided and bring it closer to an acceptable level,” he insisted.

“The consequence of chronic underfunding is acute. We have 3,000 children waiting twelve months for their first appointment in the mental health services. Yesterday Childline reported that 300 children rang in a distressed state who were saying they were suicidal.

“There has been a significant spike in the numbers of children who are self harming. Because of the significant waiting lists it leads to more acute outcomes. A third of all children who enter into mental health care are kept in adult wards – it’s a lifetime stigma and it’s not the experience that a child deserves or is entitled to.

“At a time when mental health services within the city and county are struggling to cope with demand, it is disgraceful that an underspend of almost €6m was reported last year.”

Deputy Keaveney said nationally there was an underspend in mental health of €70m out of a budget of €700m which he believed had been moved to other parts of the health service for political and electoral reasons.

“This is a slap in the face to those in need of help from the mental services and to their families. It is also a betrayal of the frontline health professionals who are trying to deliver a service, will being denied the resources they need to do so.”

“The government believes it can get away with it, relying on the still significant levels of stigma surrounding mental health to avoid any public protest by those reliant on the services or their families,” said the Tuam TD.

He said Minister of State Kathleen Lynch has refused to offer any coherent rational as to why this underspend has been tolerated.

The figures show that in 2014, the budget allocated to Galway mental health services was over €57m, while in excess of €51m was spent for the year.

In 2013, nearly €58m was allocated, but €6m less was spent; for 2012 the budget was €58m, while nearly €54m was spent; in 2011 the budget was €60m but that year there was an overspend of nearly €1m.

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading


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.”

Continue Reading