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Saolta Hospital Group rolls out overseas campaign to increase staffing in the West



University Hospital Galway: significant challenge to recruit nurses.

Saolta University Health Care Group’s largest ever overseas recruitment campaign will bring an additional 300 nurses and midwives to its seven hospitals in the West and North-West next year.

The Saolta Group, which includes UHG and Merlin Park, said interviews for the positions are ongoing and the arrival of the first tranche of new recruits is expected this January.

Saolta confirmed that recruitment of nursing staff was a ‘significant challenge’ nationally and internationally.

It conceded that there were some 600 unfilled nursing and midwifery posts, although it did not give a breakdown of the vacant positions by hospital.

“Nursing staffing levels across all our hospital sites, and the improvement of these levels, is a priority for the Saolta group,” a spokesperson said.

Saolta said that vacancy levels fluctuate throughout the year as a result of the creation of new posts, retirement, maternity leave, career breaks, promotion and staff leaving to take up positions elsewhere.

“In the twelve-month period up to October 2021, the Saolta group increased its nursing and midwifery workforce by more than 200 whole-time-equivalents. This is an increase of 5.3%,” Saolta said.

“We are actively progressing a significant overseas nursing recruitment campaign with a strong intention to have additional resources coming into the service within months. This includes the largest overseas recruitment campaign in the history of the Saolta group which encompasses 300 nursing staff.

“Interviews are ongoing at present with an expected arrival date of January 2022 for the first tranche. These nurses will be on site from their arrival with an adaptation programme being facilitated by the Saolta Group,” the spokesperson added.

Local hospitals are experiencing nursing staff shortages at a time when they are grappling with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday last, UHG was treating twelve Covid patients, down from 19 the same day last week. There was also one Covid positive patient being treated in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital.

The spread of the virus has stabilised but remains high, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. A total of 2,745 people tested positive for Covid in Galway in the fortnight to Wednesday (1,280 of these in seven days), giving a 14-day incidence rate of 1,064 per 100,000 of population. It was 1,128 the previous week. Nationally, the rate was 1,305 per 100,000 on Wednesday.

For the remainder of this week, walk-in clinics are taking place in the Ballybrit Vaccination Centre for anyone aged 40 and over who is eligible for a booster vaccine*. There is no appointment needed:

·       Wednesday 22 December – 8.30am to 6pm

·       Thursday 23 December – 8.30am to 6pm

·       Friday 24 December – 8.30am to 12.30pm

Anyone looking for a dose 1 or dose 2 vaccine may also attend any of the walk-in clinics above.

The vaccination centre will be closed on 25 and 26 December and will re-open on 27 December. Details of the walk-in clinics next week will be available from later this week. The dates and times of the vaccination clinics are updated regularly with new dates and times added.

To be eligible for a booster vaccine, you must have reached the interval of at least 90 days since your second dose vaccine or single dose Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine before coming to a walk-in clinic.

Anyone who has had COVID-19 since their previous vaccination should wait to get their booster dose at least 3 months after the positive test result.


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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Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge



The new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will be officially opened to the public next Friday, May 26.

Work on the €10 million bridge got underway in April 2022, before the main structure was hoisted into place in early December.

A lunchtime tape-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, as the first pedestrians and cyclists traverse the as-yet-unnamed bridge.

The Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, previously said the bridge, once opened, would remove existing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic “as well as facilitating the Cross-City Link public transport corridor over the existing 200-year-old bridge”.

The naming of the new bridge has been under discussion by the Council’s Civic Commemorations Committee since late last year.

One name that has been in the mix for some time is that of the first woman in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree – Alice Perry.

Ms Perry, who was from Wellpark, graduated from Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway) in 1906. The university’s engineering building is named in her honour.

The bridge was built by Jons Civil Engineering firm in County Meath and was assembled off-site before being transported to Galway. Funding for the project was provided in full by the National Transport Authority and the European Regional Development Fund.

(Photo: Sheila Gallagher captured the city’s new pedestrian footbridge being raised on the south side of the Salmon Weir Bridge in December. It will officially open next Friday, May 26).

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Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell was labelled a “disgrace” for overturning councillors’ decisions to rezone land in the new City Development Plan.

Minister O’Donnell (pictured) confirmed in a letter to Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath last week that he was reversing 25 material alternations made by councillors to the CDP 2023-29. He made the decision on the advice of Office of Planning Regulator (OPR).

Minister O’Donnell directed that 14 land parcels that were subject to land-use zoning changes by councillors as part of the Material Alterations to the Draft CDP should be reversed.

He directed that a further 11 land parcels in the city should become “unzoned”.

The Minister found that the CDP had not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the OPR, which required specific changes to the plan to ensure consistency with the national planning laws and guidelines.

At last week’s Council meeting Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked for clarity on the process by which councillors could rezone the lands that had been changed by the Minister’s direction.

Cllr Declan McDonnell said, “What he [Minister O’Donnell] has done is an absolute disgrace”.

And he asked: “Do we have to have another development plan meeting to deal with it?”

Both Cllrs Hoare and McDonnell wondered what would become of the lands that were rezoned or unzoned by the ministerial direction.

Mr McGrath said the Council had put forward an argument in favour of retaining the material alterations in the plan, but ultimately the Minister sided with OPR.

He said if councillors want to make alterations to the new plan, they could go through the process of making a material alteration but this was lengthy.

The Save Roscam Peninsula campaign welcomed the Minister’s decision.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, it said the direction would mean the Roscam village area on the Roscam Peninsula will be unzoned and a number of land parcels would revert back to agriculture/high amenity.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “the material alterations made by city councillors following lobbying by developers continued the long-standing practice of councillors facilitating a developer-led plan rather than an evidence- and policy-based plan that meets the needs of the city.

“The Minister’s direction is an important step in restoring confidence in the planning system. It is clear from the City Council’s own evidence on future housing projections that there was no requirement to zone these lands for residential purposes in order to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029,” the spokesperson added.

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