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Safety fear chaos at hospital’s psychiatric unit



The acute psychiatric unit at University Hospital Galway (UHG) descended into chaos again last weekend with nurses refusing to go on duty due to safety concerns caused by staff shortages.

The stand-off is similar to the one which led to industrial action last May. A deal brokered in June led to a commitment from the management about specific numbers being rostered on duty.

On Friday evening last, the acute ward was short four staff to care for the 44 in-patients four of them considered seriously ill and requiring one-on-one care.

Night staff refused to begin their shift claiming they feared for their safety.

It took three hours to locate three additional staff to plug the gap, explained Psychiatric Nurses Association spokesman Noel Giblin.

“There was a known requirement for staff on Tuesday morning and nothing was done. The problem as we see it is management went off duty on Friday evening not realising – or, more worryingly, not caring – that the unit was dangerously understaffed and only started looking for those staff at 8pm.”

The last empty bed was filled early that morning by an agitated patient escorted in by gardaí.

“That ward has the ability to be very volatile. Staff have to be very mindful on a Friday or Saturday night they are very likely to have guards escorting in patients and must have the full complement of staff. They’re not being listened to.”

Another mental health worker called in to assess the situation – who asked not to be named as he worked elsewhere in the HSE – said he understand it was the fourth such standoff.

“Does it need to take a staff member being killed or maimed before they listen? There are already two staff off on long-term sick leave due to injury caused by patients. You’ll see staff going off sick because they’re too afraid to come on duty which will compound the situation,” he told the Galway City Tribune.

An acute 50-bed unit is scheduled to be built late next year but planning permission has not yet been secured.

Since the closure of the acute 22-bed unit in Ballinasloe built at a cost of nearly €3m the acute unit in UHG has been at breaking point.

To offset the closure, home-based treatment teams were promised for Galway City and Oranmore where nurses would visit patients with a mental health crisis at home several times a day, keeping them out of the acute unit. However the teams were never set up.

As well as extra staffing, under the June deal the HSE agreed to open a secure six-bed mental health unit at UHG which was built but never used and could take some pressure off by accommodating  the most volatile patients. That too has not happened, explained Mr Giblin.

The PNA’s Derek Cunningham – involved in brokering the last deal – admitted there were “teething problems” with the implementation of the agreement.

At last month’s Regional Health Forum West meeting, councillors were told that nursing staff had been increased from 50 to 64 in the unit, with an additional five one-on-one specialists brought in to care for the most acutely ill.

Mr Giblin said staffing levels were the same as last May.

In July, a patient started a fire in the locker room in the psychiatric unit which staff were alerted to by a smoke alarm. There have also been cases of high-risk patients wandering off.

In one, a patient was found in his pyjamas walking along roads late at night in Menlo. In another, a high risk patient absconded only to take his own life shortly after, which is being investigated by the Mental Health Commission.

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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