News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 11th July 2016

HSE has taken over three residential care centres for 40 people with autism

It follows Hiqa inspections at care centres in Meath, Wexford and Kildare.

    

The HSE has taken over three residential care centres for people with autism after an Hiqa inspections found serious flaws in their management.

The centres had been under the control of the Irish Society for Autism (ISA) and have been inspected by health watchdog Hiqa during the past 18 months.

Prior to the HSE taking responsibility for these centres the ISA had been subject to increased monitoring activity, meetings with Hiqa and warning letters – with it made clear that changes needed to be made.

However, these measures did not result in a “sufficient improvement” and a decision was made to cancel the registration of the three centres.

What were the problems?

The three centres in question are Cluain Farm in Meath, Dunfirth Farm in Kildare and Sarshill House in Wexford.

Between the three a total of 47 residents are housed between the three centres, with the majority (34) situated at Dunfirth Farm.

Dunfirth Farm was inspected five times between January and November of 2015.

During the inspections poor outcomes for residents were found in the areas of:

  1. Risk relating to health and safety, risk management, social care needs, safeguarding and safety, governance and management [and] use of resources and workforce.
  2. “Poor managerial oversight and governance arrangements” were also said to be an issue.

At the unannounced inspection of Cluain Farm in Meath it was found that significant improvements that had previously been recommended had not been implemented.

At the centre it was found that there was inappropriate guidance for the use of chemical restraint and safeguarding measures to ensure that residents were protected and felt safe were inadequate.

At the centre in Wexford it was also found that Hiqa recommendations had not been implemented.

Areas of non-compliance at this centre included poor management of staffing resources, poor governance and staff not being adequately trained to meet the needs of the residents.

Here is a county by county Irish breakdown of the rise in house prices in the last three months

  

A nationwide supply shortage has fuelled a rise of over 2% in the price of the average house in the last three months, according to a national survey carried out by Real Estate Alliance.

The majority of counties in the country recorded price increases in the second quarter this year, the latest Real Estate Alliance Average House Price Survey has found.

The group claims it is the lack of supply of suitable properties in a scarce market that has caused these rises, exacerbated by the effect of would-be commuters moving ever further from Dublin to acquire affordable homes.

“We are seeing firms who are in business for 50 years who have never experienced such a low level of supply, and this is responsible for causing sharp increases in prices in some areas over the past three months,” said REA Chairman Michael O’Connor.

The average three bed semi nationally now costs €195,361, an increase of more than €4,000 (+2.18%) since the end of March. This is a rise of 4.49% against the same time last year.

  The REA Average House Price Survey concentrates on the sale price of Ireland’s typical stock home, the three-bed semi.

While prices in Dublin city grew by 1.4% to €363,333 since March, competition for scarce housing below the Central Bank’s €220,000 deposit limit in both the inner and outer commuter areas is fuelling an inflationary market.

Prices in commuter counties, Cork and Galway, have risen by €5,000 to €214,588 (+2.4%) while those in the rest of the country have increased by over €3,000 to €128,768 (+2.75%).

Three-bed semi prices in Kilkenny city rose by €20,000 or 12.5% in the past three months, a figure that is entirely driven by record low supply, according to Michael Boyd of REA Boyds.

“Our analysis of the Price Register tells us that there are 15 less units per month selling in the county than this time last year – and that this is the lowest level since these records began,” he said.

“We are finding that demand is strong, mainly from loan-approved returned emigrants or Eastern European buyers.

“We desperately need new building to start, especially as prices for quality stock are now well into viable levels for builders to commence.”

As the flight to another of the outer commuter counties continues, prices in Laois have risen by €10,000 (+8%) in the past three months.

Prices in Kildare (€242,500) have remained static in the four main towns, due to a low supply of suitable housing stock, combined with a relatively higher price to neighbouring counties.

In contrast, Meath has now broken the €200k barrier (€201,250) following a 3.21% growth in three months, as Dublin-based commuters move out to houses they can afford under the Central Bank’s deposit guidelines.

In Wicklow, prices in Blessington have risen from €240,000 to €265,000 in a three-month period, a rise of 10.42%, with agent REA Murphys advising that there is a bubble in the three-bed semi market.

Prices in the county as a whole have gone up by 4.44% to €235,000 over the past three months.

Louth continues to act as a microcosm of commuters travelling further in search of affordable homes with Dundalk enjoying a rise of 11.1% in three months (€150,000) while pricier homes in Drogheda (€203,000) have risen by just over the national average at 2.78%.

“There is no doubt that the major factors affecting the Irish property market at the moment are supply of housing, the Central Bank restrictions, the banks’ mortgage lending policies and high rents,” said REA Chairman Michael O’Connor.

“We have seen each of these influence the market to different degrees over the past 15 months.

“The Central Bank restrictions were brought in to calm a market bubble but we are now seeing the lack of supply very definitely fueling house price inflation on its own.

“We now need to address the roadblocks in the way of building new suitable family homes.

“We feel that the State ultimately needs to implement a 50% vat reduction on new homes, backed up by rebate schemes on local development charges on a nationwide basis.

“Nama need to accelerate sales of land on the open market as well as selling through loan sales.

“In conjunction, there is a need to fast track planning within the correct zoning for urban land bought within the next two years.”

In North County Dublin, the market has stagnated due to a lack of new builds while south County Dublin has grown by 2.19% to €350,000 and Dublin city only by 1.4% to €363,333.

“Where property is moving in Dublin it is due to supply fueling rises or investors looking to exit the market, even in spite of increasing rents,” said Mr O’Connor.

Plenty of fruit and veggies will make you happy. 

One key to happiness is in your fruit basket, says a new study.

    

The adage of “an apple a day” has now got new bite.

Everybody knows that eating fruits and vegetables is good for you in the long run as it reduces risks for cancer and heart attacks. But anew study found that munching produce boosts happiness even quicker. The associated feel-good factor kicks in within two years. Granted, that’s still not fast as other things will make you feel better, like, say, a bag of Doritos or a vodka and tonic.

But yes dive into that kale now for your health’s sake.

So urge researchers who followed 12,385 randomly selected subjects as they kept food diaries and had their psychological well-being monitored. The collaborative effort was by the University of Warwick, England, and the University of Queensland, Australia.

Subjects were observed in 2007, 2009 and 2013. Changes in their income, employment and personal factors were figured into findings. Happiness benefits were detected for each extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables — “tinned, frozen, dried and fresh,” per the study — up to eight portions per day. “The fruits and vegetables do not have to be prepared in any special way,” Warwick researcher Andrew Oswald told the Daily News. “However, French fries will not count.”

Many experts suggest eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. The more produce that was consumed, the bigger the feel-good increase.

Subjects who changed from eating almost no fruit and vegetables to munching eight portions a day experienced an increase in life satisfaction equivalent “to moving from unemployment to having a job.”

Veggies are a source of a “more immediate” feel-good boost.

“Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health,” said Oswald.

“People’s motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that physical-health benefits, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later,” Oswald added. “Well-being improvements … are closer to immediate.”

Further study is needed to explain why eating fruits and veggies makes people feel good. A possible explanation is that fruits and veggies are rich in antioxidants, substances in the body that other research has linked with optimism.

“Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet,” said researcher Redzo Mujcic. “There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables, not just a lower health risk decades later.”

Good luck with that. Americans, at any rate, aren’t anywhere close to eating fruits and veggies in recommended numbers. And, again, French fries don’t count.

Increased cancer risk before and after diabetes diagnosis

Supports theory of shared risk factors

     

People with diabetes may have an increased risk of developing cancer before and immediately after their diagnosis, a new study has found.

Previous research indicates that type 2 diabetes could increase the risk of developing a number of types of cancer, with the highest risk appearing to be soon after a diabetes diagnosis.

Canadian researchers decided to investigate this further. They looked at the incidence of cancer in over one million adults during different time points. They found that those with diabetes were 1.23 times – that is 123% – more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer during the 10 years before their diabetes diagnosis compared to people without diabetes.

“This supports existing hypotheses that shared risk factors may be contributing to both cancer and diabetes diagnoses,” commented Dr Iliana Lega of the University of Toronto.

The study also found that the incidence of cancer was much higher among people with diabetes in the first three months after their diabetes diagnosis. However this increased risk did not appear to extend past three months.

“This may in part be explained by increased healthcare visits and screening tests following a diagnosis of diabetes,” Dr Lega noted.

She warned that the increasing incidence of diabetes may lead to more cases of cancer as well.

“There is excellent evidence that diabetes can be prevented and that metabolic changes leading to diabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes. Similarly, diet and exercise interventions have also been shown to reduce cancer risk and improve cancer outcomes in the general population.

“Our findings are important because they underscore the need for further research that examines the impact of exercise and healthy diet on cancer risk specifically in patients with, or at risk for, diabetes,” she commented.

You can now charge your phone just by going for the wee wee’s “that’s if you fancy it”

     

A miniature fuel cell costing no more than £2 which can generate electricity from a single visit to the toilet has recharged a smartphone for the first time.

Using “pee power”, scientists have been able to provide three hours of phone calls for every six hours of charge time – all from 600ml of urine.

The microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology provides enormous potential to enable people to stay connected in areas that are off grid using urine.

The world first has been developed at the University of the West of England in Bristol by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team.

Prof Ieropoulos said: “We are excited to announce several global firsts – this development was possible by employing a new design of microbial fuel cells that allowed scaling up without power density losses.

“Although it was demonstrated in the past that a basic mobile phone could be charged by microbial fuel cells, the present study goes beyond this to show how, simply using urine, a microbial fuel cell system successfully charges a modern-day smartphone.”

Several energy-harvesting systems have been tested and results have demonstrated that the charging circuitry of commercially available phones may consume up to 38% of energy on top of the battery capacity.

Each of the fuel cells costs between £1 and £2 and works by using natural biological processes of “electric” bacteria to turn urine into electricity.

Urine passes through the microbial fuel cell for this reaction to happen, with the bacteria then generating electricity.

This can be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

The fuel cell measures just one inch square in size and uses a carbon catalyst at the cathode which is derived from glucose and ovalbumin, a protein found in egg white.

This catalyst is a renewable and much cheaper alternative to platinum, which is commonly used in other microbial fuel cells.

Monkeys have long been using tools for almost 700 years,

Archaeologists now discover

     

Brazilian capuchins have been using stone tools to crack open cashew nuts on a sandstone ‘anvil’ (pictured above) for at least 700 years, and the use of tools was once seen as a key dividing line between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.

But new research has found it’s actually so easy that a monkey can do it, as the saying goes.

Archaeologists have discovered capuchin monkeys in Brazil have been using stone hammers and anvils to break open cashew nuts for at least 700 years.

And they suggested that humans might have discovered that the nuts were good to eat after stumbling across the site of the monkeys’ “cashew-processing industry”.

But the capuchins appear to be hidebound traditionalists, always opening the nuts in the same way, rather than attempting to invent a better way of doing it.

Dr Michael Haslam, lead author of a paper about the research in the journal Current Biology, said: “We have new evidence that suggests monkeys and other primates out of Africa were also using tools for hundreds, possibly thousands of years.

“This is an exciting, unexplored area of scientific study that may even tell us about the possible influence of monkeys’ tool use on human behaviour.

“For example, cashew nuts are native to this area of Brazil, and it is possible that the first humans to arrive here learned about this unknown food through watching the monkeys and their primate cashew-processing industry.”

The monkeys use hard quartzite stones as hammers and flat sandstones as anvils when breaking open the nuts.

And they also tend to do this in the same places – usually close to the trees that produce them – partly because the right kinds of stones are already laid out like “a set of cutlery in a restaurant”.

The archaeologists excavated one site down to a depth of 70cm, where they found a total of 69 stones with signs of damage caused by the repeated pounding and the residue of cashews.

A number of small pieces of charcoal found with the stones were then carbon dated to about 700 years ago.

The research suggests capuchins have not managed to build on the work of the original monkey inventor who pioneered the technique.

“In capuchin terms, 700 years is about 100 generations. The same thing in human terms would be about 2,500 years,” Dr Haslam said.

“They [the capuchins] tend to use the same types of materials in the same ways, unlike humans who have in the last 2,500 years have gone from obviously the Iron Age to where we are now.”

The populations of species that have showed significant promise as tool-makers – apart from humans – have all been reduced by our domination of the planet.

And Dr Haslam said this meant it was unlikely that any other animal would come to rival our success with tools.

“The potential for there to be a chimpanzee who would invent a microwave or a Boeing 747 really isn’t there anymore,” he said.

“We have to accept that we are the chimpanzee that did that and live with that.”

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