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Woman lay dead in locked hospital toilet for up to 12 hours



A 34-year-old woman who lay dead in the toilets of University Hospital Galway for up to twelve hours died as a result of a lethal level of alcohol intoxication, an inquest into her death heard.

Ewelina Cieślak, a Polish national who had been a resident at Galway Simon’s high-support accommodation in Newcastle, was found dead in a disabled toilet at the hospital’s Emergency Department on Monday morning, August 7, 2017.

In evidence given to the inquest, Housing Support Assistant with Galway Simon, Nadine Hughes, said Ms Cieślak had addiction problems with alcohol, but had been sober on the Sunday afternoon when she left her accommodation in Hazel Park.

“Ewelina had been drinking on Saturday, August 5, but had been sober when I was talking to her on Sunday, August 6,” Ms Hughes told Coroner for Galway West, Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin.

“She told me she was going out but she did not say where. We had agreed to keep in contact by phone, as per our protocol,” she continued.

Ms Hughes explained that residents were not obliged to stay with them if they did not want to, but they were always encouraged to return at night.

Several attempts were made to contact Ms Cieślak throughout Sunday night, August 7, but her phone was switched off – something Ms Hughes said was not unusual for Ms Cieślak.

Ms Cieślak was found by security staff at UHG behind the locked door of the disabled toilet at 6.30am the following morning.

Security guard at the hospital, Keith Moggan, told the inquest that he had entered the toilet when an unrelated “suspicious male” he had been watching went missing sometime before 6.30am.

“When I discovered the disabled toilets were locked, I went to get the keys from the office and on opening the door, I discovered a female who I now know to have been Ewelina Cieślak.

“I sent a security officer who had followed me to get help,” said Mr Moggan.

He said that as the toilet was in full view of patients outside, he closed the door before checking for a pulse. He said he could not find one and that the body was cold to the touch.

Ms Cieślak was rushed to the resuscitation room where staff at the hospital attempted to revive her but she was pronounced dead at 6.43am.

Mr Moggan said he checked CCTV footage of the area a short time later from which he could identify Ms Cieślak entering the toilet at 6.57pm on Sunday evening.

Nobody had accessed the toilet in the hours between Ms Cieślak’s entry and his opening of the door at 6.30am the following morning.

“At approximately 6.45am, a member of the nursing staff ordered that I open the toilet and we searched it,” said Mr Moggan.

Their search uncovered four empty 200ml bottles of vodka discarded in the waste and sanitation bins.

Noonan, the company contracted to provide cleaning services for the Saolta Hospital Group, were represented by Account Director, Rachel Naylor.

Ms Naylor said it was their policy to check the toilets at least every two hours.

On the night in question, Ms Naylor said attempts had been made to access the toilet where Ms Cieślak was found on three separate occasions – at 6.30pm, 9pm and 11pm.

She said because of the staff member’s inability to gain access, it had been assumed the toilet was out of order.

“There have been occasions in the past when hospital security would lock the toilets as they may require a maintenance person to attend.

“This has happened in the past and no ‘out of order’ sign was placed on the door,” said Ms Naylor.

She said staffing levels were normal on August 6 and 7, 2017, and that it had been standard procedure to make a note of failure to access toilets and inform a senior manager upon their arrival at 7am.

Since the death of Ms Cieślak, Noonan and hospital management have added a new regulation to their procedure requiring cleaning staff to contact security if they cannot gain access for an extended period.

“If a toilet is occupied for a period of 30 minutes or more, security must be notified to see if the occupant is safe,” said Ms Naylor, adding that Noonan cleaning staff do not have keys to enter once the door is locked from the inside.

Coroner, Dr MacLoughlin, reading into evidence the report of Consultant Pathologist, Dr Yi Ling Khaw, said that Ms Cieślak’s blood alcohol level was 576mg per 100ml.

“Alcohol levels may be toxic from 100 to 450mg, while lethal is between 400 and 600mg.

“Ewelina Cieślak died on August 7, 2017 at University Hospital Galway. The cause of death, in accordance with the medical evidence, is alcohol intoxication,” said Mr MacLoughlin.

He said that another significant condition that was contributory, but not the cause of Ms Cieślak’s death, was a diseased and fatty liver.

Members of Ms Cieślak’s family had travelled from Poland to attend the inquest and speaking through an interpreter, Dr MacLoughlin extended his condolences to her mother, Joanna, and daughter, Greta – as well as members of her immediate family and friends.

“The inquest is not in a position to make any recommendation as the cleaning company and the HSE have learned from the tragic circumstances of Ewelina’s death and have put in place protocols to avoid it happening again,” concluded Dr MacLoughlin.


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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