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Pupils get hands-on experience of being a doctor



There was an air of hush as the teenager bent down to the breathing figure on the table.

“There’s no air on the left side,” remarked the long-haired lad after applying his stethoscope across the chest of the mannequin.

Dr Dara Byrne turns around to the man holding the small computer, raising her eyebrows. He shakes his head.

“Listen again,” the consultant directs her student. “There’s crackling on the left, no air on the right.” “Right. Now why would there be no air?”

“Collapsed lung?” he tries. “Correct,” she smiles.

This lesson in diagnostics is repeated over the course of an afternoon as the group of 30 Transition Years from across the city and West of Ireland get to practice on the “patient”, known as SIMman.

The robot, which costs around €100,000, is as close to the real thing that these students can get short of being fourth year medical students in university.

They can listen to his breathing, draw blood, check vitals such as blood pressure, temperature, administer intravenous drugs and even catheterise him.

These young bloods are ensconced in the upstairs of what is known as the Nurses Building of University Hospital Galway for three days getting the coolest work experience ever.

Deep in the heart of the simulation centre is a team of interns, junior doctors and consultants who are giving up their free time to inspire the next generation of medics.

By the end of their time here, they will have discovered how to clear someone’s airway, learned how to plaster a broken limb, sutured an open wound and put in a drip.

The students will be given a lesson on tips in communicating with a patient while taking their medical history.

They will also have heard first hand what it’s like to work at all levels of the hospital’s pecking order, with talks from a medical student, an intern, a GP, a psychiatrist, consultant surgeons and paramedics.

The very hands-on work experience programme in the simulation centre was piloted last year by Dr Dara Byrne, the intern coordinator for the Saolta hospital group.

It was her belief that by giving a really practical and frank insight into the life of a medic, those who are best suited to the career will be further encouraged, while those who are not will be dissuaded from pointless years of study.

A place on the programme has so far been granted to those who have simply written into the hospital requesting work experience in medicine.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive for last year’s trainees in the essays they handed in on completion.

“It really showed me the positive side of medicine as a career and that it does not always have to serious and hard work,” remarked one.

“By getting involved in the course, I have decided that medicine is the career of my choice. I will work towards that goal and I hope to see you all in the medical school of NUIG September 2016,” wrote another.

If any were turned off, they kept it to themselves,” smiles consultant psychiatrist Dr Elizabeth Walsh who has helped coordinate the programme.

“For other work experience segments, they say they are put sitting in an office in front of a computer. Here they are constantly on the go.

“You will know if it’s for you at the end of the course. One thing they are is totally exhausted by the end of it.”

One of the most exciting parts of the course is learning how to manage emergency situations.

The students are given particular medical scenarios and asked to react. There could be an asthmatic student finishing sport who had turned blue; a sports person had just received a kick in the head; a youth who had just eaten a chocolate bar containing nuts and they have a nut allergy.

The pupils get an insider’s guide to an ambulance and get to feel what it’s like to get strapped into a gurney.

During the hour with SIMman last Wednesday, students were asked to identify a crackle, rub or a wheeze in the chest. The sound of a erratic heart beat or inside the colon is contained another gadget.

“It’s really weird,” remarks one, on hearing sounds through the stethoscope.

“Really weird. That’s some diagnosis,” quips Dr Byrne.

She turns to lightly admonish another who is a little too rough inserting tubes into the nose.

“You have to be kind of careful,” she says breezily. “If you cause bleeding you’ll make the breathing worse. He may stop.”

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.

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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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