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Mortuary staff unaware man had Hepatitis C virus



A man who died in UHG, seven days after collapsing in a friend’s garden last year, was found to have had a highly-infectious disease which had not been communicated to mortuary staff, an Inquest into his death heard.

Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, said that while his main concern was for the people that his office employed, this was also a wider public health issue that needed to be further investigated.

“He had a contagious infectious condition, and because the people in the (mortuary) lab weren’t informed, the risk could have been passed on,” he said.

“People should be warned if someone has an infectious disease.”

He determined the cause of death, in accordance with the medical evidence, but deferred the case for another month to allow the consultant in charge at the time of his admission the opportunity to account for his or her actions.

Joseph McDonagh (65), of 68 Walter Macken Place, Mervue, died in UHG on August 1, 2017, having been admitted with a skull fracture a week earlier.

A family friend had told the inquest that he had called unexpectedly to her house in Bohermore on the evening of July 23 last. He was quite intoxicated on leaving, and had insisted on walking home. Early the next morning, however, a neighbour knocked at her door to say that a man was lying in her garden.

“She told me not to bother him, that he had been causing trouble,” the neighbour recalled in her deposition.

“I told her there was blood all over his head.”

He was taken to the emergency department of UHG, where his Glasgow Coma Scale, which records a patient’s level of consciousness, was 3/15. A CT brain scan revealed a severe head injury, and neurosurgeons in Beaumont Hospital deemed him unfit for transfer or for surgical intervention.

He was subsequently admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for one-to-one care.

Following hospital admission, Gardaí carried out door-to-door enquiries in the vicinity, but no neighbours recalled anything out of the normal.

“We did not establish any foul play in the head injuries sustained by Mr McDonagh,” Detective Garda Tom Doyle, told the inquiry.

Mr McDonagh’s condition did not improve, however, and he passed away on the morning of August 1 2017. Death was pronounced at 2.15am, and his remains were identified to Garda Damian Walsh by Mr McDonagh’s sister, Bridie Lawlor.

The death was reported to the Coroner, as are all unexpected deaths, and he directed consultant pathologist, Dr Margaret Sheehan, to carry out a post mortem examination.

While perusing past medical records, however, Dr Sheehan discovered that Mr McDonagh had the Hepatitis C Virus, an infectious disease affecting the liver that is spread by blood-to-blood contact.

She pointed out that neither she, nor the staff assisting her, had been warned of this.

She concluded that death was due to a massive traumatic injury to the brain, associated with a significant skull fracture. Pulmonary oedema and bronchopneumonia would have occurred after the injury, she added.

Dr MacLoughlin adjourned the inquiry for a month for the consultant on duty to make a statement, and to appear in person, to explain why a toxicology screening had not been performed on admission, including a blood/alcohol reading, and why mortuary staff had not been advised of the inherent danger posed by Mr McDonagh’s blood.

“This is a serious public health issue,” he said.

“Because I employ the consultant and mortuary technician, it is incumbent on me to ensure that the highest standards of health are afforded to all of these people.”

He advised the large McDonagh family, however, that despite this unresolved matter, a death certificate would be made available within a week.

He concluded that death was due to bronchial pneumonia and pulmonary oedema, as a result of a traumatic brain injury and a fractured skull, sustained in a fall.

“There is no evidence that he was the victim of an assault,” he added.

“A death certificate will be available, but we will call the consultant (on duty) to explain why the lab (mortuary) was not informed, and why an alcohol level was not taken on admission.”

The Coroner has also sought to find out if other hospital staff knew Mr McDonagh had this virus, and were barrier nursing care methods put in place as a result.


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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