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Psychiatric Unit shortcomings pinpointed by inspection



The Mental Health Commission has identified shortcomings at the Psychiatric Unit of University Hospital Galway.

The problems, which were identified following an unannounced inspection late last year, include issues in relation to patients’ privacy and dignity, use of restraints, as well as criticisms of the physical environment of the unit.

The report, issuing a list of corrective action to be undertaken, was published by the commission last week.

The unit received a ‘non-compliant, poor’ rating in relation to ensuring residents’ privacy and dignity is appropriately respected at all times.

“Male residents were required to walk through the female side to access the male toilets and showers. There was one shower and one bath on the female side and two showers on the male side of the approved centre. All showers and bathrooms were lockable but could be opened by staff in an emergency. One resident reported sharing two toilets with 18 female residents,” the report noted. It also said that a corridor beside the male bedrooms was visible from the road outside and the car park.

In response, the hospital said it has expanded the hours of opening for the High Observational Area, which provides gender neutral areas and so increases toilet and shower facilities. It said it plans to take action to obscure visibility to the unit from the outside.

The unit also scored a ‘non-compliant, poor’ for the state of the building, which was a redesigned medical ward in use since the 1970s.

“The physical environment of the approved centre did not enable the residents to engage in meaningful occupations. There was a lack of space for the residents and the environment was very busy and noisy. The approved centre was non-compliant in this regulation as it was not in a good state of repair with worn paint, malodourous toilets, furniture stored on the corridors and urinals in a poor state of repair. There was no clinical space for general health reviews,” the report said.

In response, UHG said a new purpose built Acute Mental Health Unit is currently being built and is due to be opened in the last quarter of this year.

The hospital added: “We have minor capital funding identified for painting, refurbishment and ventilation in areas identified in the report.” These minor renovations were due to be completed by the end of March, 2016.

The inspectors found fault in relation to consent and treatment where it again scored a ‘non compliant, poor’ rating. There were 11 patients involuntarily detained within the approved unit and only two of these patients were detained for longer than three months. Both patients had signed a consent form to state that they understood and agreed to take medication.

However, there was no indication in the consent as to the specific medication the patient had consented to take. This is a requirement of Section 60 of the Mental Health Act 2001. As the consent process for two patients was not in accordance with Section 60 of the Mental Health Act 2001, the approved centre was in breach of consent to treatment,” the report stated.

The centre was also found to be non-compliant in relation to the physical restraint of patients.

The report said: “The approved centre was non-compliant as the forms for episodes of physical restraint were incomplete; security staff were assisting with restraint when other staff members were present; next of kin were not informed on one episode and there was no evidence of a medical review completed within three hours as per the code of practice guidelines.”

Despite the shortcomings, the unit complied with its obligations under the vast majority of areas inspected.

The inspection of the 45-bed unit took place over four days last November. The previous inspection took place in March 2014, and identified a number of shortcomings, including care plans for residents.

The latest report pointed out the hospital had made several improvements since the previous visit.

It said: “Since the 2014 inspection, there had been a significant improvement in individual care planning. All 44 residents had an individual care plan on inspection and a standardised format was being used. Each resident had needs, goals, interventions and resources identified. Monthly audits had been sent to the Mental Health Commission as per the condition on their registration.

“It was evident that the activity programme was tailored to residents’ needs and changed when it was appropriate. There was positive feedback from residents and there was good attendance at these groups. It was recognised that the approved centre was in the process of recruiting new staff. The approved centre had removed ligature points that were identified in an audit.”

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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