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Portiuncula set to bring in bird control over droppings



A large amount of bird droppings discovered at a medical ward in Portiuncula suggests there is a serious pest control issue at the Ballinasloe hospital.

During an unannounced inspection of St Joseph’s Ward in March, HIQA (Health Information and Quality Authority) found “a large amount of bird excreta” on the exterior of several window panes and window sills.

“The extent of the problem indicated that there was a pest control issue which needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” HIQA said.

“Accumulation of bird excreta has the potential to increase the risk of transmission of infectious agents to vulnerable patients. Hospitals are responsible for ensuring that there is a pest control programme or service that is responsible for the cleaning and disinfecting areas contaminated by pests in addition to pest control,” it said.

The hospital confirmed the presence of bird droppings was an ongoing problem and it has put in place a “sanitising programme to clean the exterior of the hospital”. It also plans to introduce measures to prevent birds from entering the building including hawk ultrasound, high illumination and netting.

Pest control issues was just one area of concern highlighted in the latest HIQA report, which was published following two unannounced inspections in March and April of this year.

The inspections were a follow-up to the May 2014 unannounced visit by HIQA, which identified several areas for improvements. The HIQA report, published this week, highlights a number of concerns in relation to environmental hygiene at the Oncology Day Unit and St Francis Ward.

There were “unacceptable levels of dust seen in most areas inspected”, and it noted that the only vacuum cleaner available for two wards had been broken for 12 months, which “impacted significantly on dust control”.

The buffer machine wasn’t working properly either, and posed a health and safety risk, the report said. The report noted that six new vacuum cleaners were purchased since the issue was highlighted in March and the hospital took several other steps to address hygiene shortcomings.

HIQA found that the hospital continues to identify a regular but small number of unrelated cases of C. difficile. “While improvements have been seen in environmental hygiene, there is considerable room for increase in hand hygiene compliance and a need to further progress the implementation of the antimicrobial stewardship programme in order to mitigate the risk posed by multidrug-resistant organisms and C. difficile,” it said.

HIQA said that the isolation facilities at Portiuncula, “are inadequate and do not reflect the size, complexity and specialties of the service provided.”

“The hospital has indicated that plans to develop a ward replacement block, which should provide 50 single rooms, is at the design stage. HIQA recommends that the deficiencies in isolation facilities should be reviewed as a matter of urgency to provide assurance that the hospital complies with national standards,” it said.

It concluded the hospital should “continue to build on its progress to date to ensure that the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections is effectively and efficiently managed to minimise the risks to service users, staff and visitors.”

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.

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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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