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Private clinics reap rewards of 4,000 from waiting lists



Well over 4,000 public patients at Galway’s two major hospitals have been referred to private hospitals for inpatient and day procedures as well as outpatient appointments in the last two years.

Newly-elected Galway West TD Catherine Connolly condemned the practice of using taxpayer’s funds to send public patients to private facilities, which she said was running down the public system while propping up the private hospitals.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) revealed that 2,615 inpatients and day patients had been treated at private hospitals as far away as Mullingar and Limerick in 2014 and 2015. A further 917 outpatients had been seen by a private specialist – the vast majority of them, 777, at the Bons Secours Hospital in Galway.

In total 4,446 public patients were seen privately in the period.

This did not include referrals for scans. In the last year alone 3,546 public patients were sent to the privately owned Merlin Park Imaging Centre for CT and MRI scans – 849 more than 2014.

Deputy Connolly also raised the waiting lists for otolaryngology patients at this week’s Regional Health Forum West meeting, where it was revealed there were still 841 patients waiting to see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist despite nearly 200 patients being sent to private hospitals for their consultations around the country.

Of those 841 patients waiting for an inpatient or day procedure in ENT at Galway University Hospital (GUH) – 341 of them for over a year and 164 for two years or more.

The HSE reported that 193 patients on the waiting list had been referred to private hospitals and clinics in the last two years.

She asked why ENT patients had to wait so long and what was the solution to bring down the waiting list. She queried why more ENT consultants were not appointed to deal with the long-standing backlog.

Ann Cosgrove, who has been promoted from general manager of GUH to chief operating office for the Saolta University Health Care Group, said there was a deficit in capacity in the public system, with a lack of doctors, theatre time and physical space for outpatients.

She said a new appointment was made in the last year but this was almost cancelled out by a medic who had gone on maternity leave and who was not replaced.

ENT was a “a higher speciality” involving complex conditions which required a great deal of monitoring and return appointments.

“We’re maximizing existing capacity but it’s not enough. Everybody will be aware the hospitals have been greatly impacted by emergency admissions and that does impact on elective admissions. There is always a tension between all the needs – emergency, elective and outpatient appointments.”

She said the hospitals were working to minimise patients who missed appointments and were regularly holding “virtual clinics” over the phone or over the internet.

The new manager of GUH, Chris Kane, said there had been a winter surge of elderly and sick patients coming to the hospital which had put additional pressure on resources.

The latest available figures from last year show there were 8,330 people waiting more than a year for an outpatient appointment at University Hospital Galway at the end of February 2015. That represented an increase of 250% on the same month in 2014.

The Saolta group was fined €1.189 million – out of €3.7m levied nationally – by the HSE for having too many patients waiting 18 months or more to be seen. The fines were imposed for the final five months of 2015 to encourage hospitals to dramatically cut waiting lists, which has led to an increase in private referrals.

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.

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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