Thursday 29th January 2015
Thousands lose power across Donegal as strong winds hit the Northwest of Ireland.
Met Eireann has issued an orange wind weather warning for Donegal with conditions set to worsen overnight.
Gusts are expected to reach up to 110kmph in Co Donegal tonight Thursday, while temperatures will also drop, which will bring some wintry showers.
A spell of rain and sleet will move down across the country from the northwest early tonight, falling as snow in parts of Ulster and Leinster.
Gardaí are advising motorists to take caution on the roads. Meanwhile thousands of homes and businesses lost power in Co Donegal.
Power was lost on Arranmore Island with over 500 affected. The ESB hopes to have the outage resolved by 00.45 on Friday. A further 37 were affected in Dungloe.
1246 homes and businesses lost power in Kilcar with service due back at 00.45
302 lost power in Milford with the ESB predicting service to be returned by 11pm. Stranorlar was also affected, 550 without electricity, power is expected to be returned by 22.45.
96 lost power in Bundoran.
A number of homes and businesses also lost power in Ballyshannon, Kilcar and on Inch island..
Teachers’ group calls for equality review at NUI Galway
Right picture the teachers who brought Legal proceedings against NUIG: Adrienne Gorman, Sylvie Lannergrand, Roisin Healey, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington,
Female academics have filed action against university over failure to be promoted.
The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has added its voice to demands for an independent external review of gender equality in NUI Galway (NUIG).
The Irish Federation of University Teachers has added its voice to demands for an independent external review of gender equality in NUI Galway (NUIG).
The federation issued its call ahead of today’s special meeting of NUIG’s governing body on Friday, at which details of a taskforce to review practices on equality are expected to be discussed.
However, a group of female academics, who have filed a legal action against NUIG over their failure to be promoted, have contacted governing body members to express their disappointment at the issue not being resolved internally.
The women, shortlisted for senior lectureships in 2008/2009 and again in 2013/14, had understood the university intended to try and reach an “amicable” solution.
Recent correspondence between them and the university indicates that it intends to pursue a legal route, according to college sources. The group met NUIG president Dr Jim Browne on December 16th last, when they informed him they had were under a deadline to file a circuit course case in relation to the 2013/2014 round.
It is understood that they made it clear that they would put a stay on the court proceedings, pending a promised senior counsel review on NUIG’s behalf of the Equality Tribunal report on the Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington case.
The tribunal found in favour of Dr Sheehy Skeffington and directed that she be promoted and awarded €70,000. She has pledged to use the funds to assist the women in their legal action.
Separately, the university is appealing an €81,000 award which the Equality Tribunal directed that it pay lecturer Mary Dempsey last summer, after it found that she was discriminated against by the university on the grounds of gender, family status and disability.
A protest organised by students with Dr Sheehy Skeffington’s support is due to take place outside the governing body meeting, while federation members are also gathering to discuss ways to ensure that gender equality issues are “highlighted in collective bargaining and industrial relations talks and initiatives generally”.
“NUIG’s proposal to establish a task force on the matter is welcome, but task force membership should be agreed jointly with staff unions and engage directly with staff, to ensure full confidence in, and maximum effectiveness of the process,” IFUT deputy general secretary Joan Donegan said.
“The board of NUIG should set clear time deadlines for completion, which should be agreed at the beginning of the investigation.”
Earlier this month, NUIG said it had written to the Irish University Association and the Higher Education Authority to request that the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) be approached to carry out an equality review of the entire sector. It had no comment to make on the issue on Thursday.
Almost 2,000 elective Irish Hospital procedures are cancelled
Close to 2,000 elective procedures have been cancelled in order to ease pressure on Emergency Departments (EDs) — a move described as “necessary” by Minister for Health Dr Leo Varadkar, who stressed that “patient safety comes first”.
“Given the level of overcrowding in some of the Irish hospitals, most of which had to be done. Elective activity is always less in January. We will need to ramp up activity: generally wards are closed during the summer. That won’t be possible this year. We will need to keep wards open, in order to catch up on elective activity,” he said.
Some 150 people were on trolleys for more than nine hours on January 23, which was still “pretty bad, even for January”, the Minister added. “We need to focus on this. It will need constant attention throughout the year.” However, he indicated that the latest numbers on influenza, which the health service had been very concerned about, did not suggest infections were increasing.
The intention was to extend Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) opening times this year to seven days per week, the Minister elaborated. AMAUs, he said, “work well and are being rolled out across the country”.
Most AMAUs are now only open five days per week and Prof Garry Courtney, the HSE’s Acute Medicine Programme Clinical Lead, is to direct the roll-out. Kilkenny and St James’s pioneered AMAUs — units where patients may be sent in directly by the GP or come in through the ED. They are sent to a special ward, where all the investigations are done in one day. The patient can then either be admitted or discharged.
The target is to reduce delayed discharges to fewer than 500 by the end of the year, Dr Varadkar has stated. “That would be the lowest ever recorded,” said the Minister. Delayed discharges are now down from 850 to near 750. He accepted that there would always be a certain number of delayed discharges — those who are in hospital and going through the application process for a nursing home.
But delayed discharges were “not really the hospitals’ fault”, the Minister said. The problem was a matter for social care and community and how these elements linked, said Dr Varadkar. “The Irish health service is not good at mainstreaming ‘best practice’ and that is a big challenge. St James’s has a reputation as an extremely well run hospital. It rarely has patients on trolleys.”
Patients on trolleys should not be a “year-round phenomenon” — as occurs in some hospitals though there would always be surges, in the Minister’s view. Yet no patient should ever have to spend more than nine hours on a trolley waiting for a bed. “Aside from the discomfort, loss of privacy and dignity, it is a patient safety risk particularly for the frail elderly,” Dr Varadkar added.
“Even though the situation is much improved, we are, of course, not out of the woods yet and looking back at previous years we have seen peaks in trolleys and overcrowding at various points in the year, including February 2011, March 2012 and May 2013,” said Dr Varadkar during Oireachtas Private Members business. “It is clear that a sustained focus will be required throughout the winter and into the summer.”
The future of internet big data could be good for your health
Exploiting today’s information mountain is not all about online commerce: one of Europe’s largest analytics centres is advancing the area of ‘connected health’
The Internet of Things is attempting to join together your television, car, computer and just about anything else that can generate or use data.
The world is in data overload. The information superhighway was built and we are now struggling to handle the big data mountain that it delivered.
But what started as a problem has now become an opportunity. Researchers and companies have realised that if you mine that data, you get useful information with an inherent value.
Finding novel ways to exploit this morass of big data is the challenge faced by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. The centre, established in July 2013, was formed from five existing research centres that were set up several years ago.
Through a combination of good people, good planning and a degree of good luck, these five were all working on different aspects of big data, explains Prof Mark Ferguson, director-general of Science Foundation Ireland, the body that funded these centres.
So it was an easy decision to pull them together into a single research entity under one banner. Insight includes four university partners: University College Dublin, NUI Galway, University College Cork and Dublin City University. It attracted €58 million from Government coffers and another €30 million from industrial partners, making it the largest investment in a single research centre in the history of the State.
We swim through a deepening ocean of data, collected from cinemas, supermarkets, websites, social-media companies and businesses. The Internet of Things is attempting to join together your television, car, computer and just about anything else that can generate or use data.
“There is data everywhere. We have gone from a data-poor to a data-rich society and you need to analyse and create value out of it. It is a huge opportunity,” says Prof Ferguson.
At the Google level
Insight is now one of the largest data analytics centres in Europe. It involves the work of 350 researchers; with a team like that, “we are at the Google level” for data analytics, says Prof Barry Smyth, a director of Insight and investigator based at UCD’s school of computer science and informatics.
“It is not just big data for big companies; it is about empowering the citizen,” he says. “But individuals need to have the right to control the data and how it is used.”
Certainly mining this data helps online retail, advertising and commerce. But big data also holds much promise in “connected health”, he says. “This involves helping people to live healthier lives. This taps into wearable devices, activity monitors. They are counting steps, watching sleep patterns.”
Imagine a visit to the GP who has details from that day but also a year’s worth of stored activity data. The picture changes from a snapshot to a proper portrait and improves the doctor’s assessment.
Dr Brendan Marshall is a biomechanist at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Dublin, a company involved with Insight. He analyses how people move and how that relates to the injuries they develop.
“We can look at injury risk factors and are looking to Insight to analyse our data in novel ways,” he says. He can analyse single aspects of movement, but with data mining and mathematics from Insight he can get the big picture. “It is real-world stuff and it is happening now. It is not just for the future,” he says.
Prof Smyth gives another scenario of how connected health might work. You visit your physiotherapist, who gives you pages describing exercises. But what if, instead, you were given a computer game in which you were the main character, and the movements you make in the game equate to the movements necessary to achieve the goals of the exercises?
For years, scientists at DCU and elsewhere have been tracking movements using wearable sensors, GPS locators and accelerometers. Our rugby internationals are wired up with some of this technology, which also monitors physical performance and radios it back to a central system even as they play.
Mathematics is the tool used to extract useful information from raw data, says Prof Smyth. “We are using statistical techniques, machine learning and data mining. We start with numbers and then begin to see correlations and patterns,” he says. “It can help you make predictions and make better decisions.”
Big data is here to stay. “There were seven billion smart devices in the world last year, but this is expected to reach 14 billion this year,” says Oliver Daniels, chief executive of Insight. “This could hit 150 billion by 2020. There are issues around the privacy and ownership of that data. People are concerned about ‘big brother’ as well as big data,” he says.
Even so, Ireland will have to get ahead of the curve and make predictions about where big data will go in the future, he says. “Insight wants to help shape how we go forward and how our economy will benefit.”
Dementia care in Irish Nursing Homes severely lacking
(right picture) Kathleen Lynch TD Minister of State, Department of Health and Department of Justice, Equality & Defence with responsibility for Disability,Older People, …
Almost 90% of nursing homes in Ireland have no dedicated dementia care units, despite the increasing number of people living with this condition, a major new survey has found.
According to a new report based on the survey findings, dementia is currently ‘one of the biggest challenges facing global healthcare and health economies’.
Around 48,000 people in Ireland have dementia and this figure is expected to increase significantly in the coming years,
Yet little information on the state of dementia care nationally is available. Researchers at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) decided to survey the country’s nursing homes to see what dementia services they offered.
Just over 600 nursing homes were approached to take part and almost eight in 10 participated. However among these, just 54 (11%) stated that they offered dementia-specific care in specialist care units (SCUs). In other countries such as Norway and the Netherlands, some 33% of nursing homes offer this type of care.
The survey also revealed that SCUs have developed in ‘an arbitrary, fragmented and uncoordinated manner’, with half of all SCUs located in just five counties and some counties, including Sligo, Carlow and Kilkenny, offering no specialist provision at all.
Meanwhile, the average number of residents with dementia living in SCUs was 19, ‘a figure way in excess of best practice norms’.
For people waiting for admission to an SCU, there were big variations depending on the location, with waiting times particularly long in Leinster where there are far fewer SCUs.
The survey also found that over 60% of specialist dementia services were provided by private nursing homes, yet the private sector received significantly less funding for the care of older people from the National Treatment and Purchase Fund.
Furthermore, private nursing homes were more likely to report that all staff had received specialist dementia training. In HSE-operated facilities, just one-third of staff were specially trained.
The report stated that ‘a new funding model is required if the private sector is to be further incentivised, with more funding allocated to private nursing homes in recognition of the specialist services needed to support people with dementia’.
“Of some concern is the fact that only 11% of all the Irish facilities surveyed have dedicated dementia units and, despite an expected increase in demand for long-term dementia care arising as a result of population ageing, only a small minority of Irish nursing homes intend opening dementia units,” said the report’s lead author, Associate Prof Suzanne Cahill, of TCD.
Commenting on the findings, Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, said that this survey should act as an ‘eye-opener’ for the Government and various policy stakeholders.
“We wholeheartedly welcome the research findings that the complex and high-dependency needs of persons with dementia need to be realistically reflected in better resource allocation,” he added.
Megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) discovered by fishermen on the shores of Barangay Marigondon
Fishermen use a stretcher with steels bars to carry a rare 15-foot (4.5-m) megamouth shark (Megachasma Pelagios), which was trapped in a fishermen’s net in Burias Pass in Albay and Masbate provinces, central Philippines January 28, 2015.
A megamouth shark can reach to a maximum length of 17 feet (5.2 metres) with a life span of 100 years. It resides in deep waters but rises towards the surface at night to feed or eat plankton. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Albay province will investigate to determine the cause of the shark’s death.
A 15-foot shark with a gaping mouth washed up on a Philippines beach, giving scientists a rare glimpse at a species normally found deep in the ocean.
The megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) was discovered by fishermen on the shores of Barangay Marigondon earlier this week. Officials with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources later told the Inquirer newspaper that there were wounds on the shark and it was missing a tail. The shark is currently on ice awaiting an examination from veterinarians.
An environmental group called Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines was the first to publicize the discovery, putting photos of the shark on its Facebook page.
The incredibly rare megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) is considered the most significant shark species discovered in the 20th century, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Only about 20 specimens have ever been spotted.
As such, little is known about the shark’s numbers, behavior and where it can be found. The IUCN said it is believed the shark’s range could include waters around Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Senegal and the United States. It has been found in bay waters as shallow as 16 feet and recorded offshore at depths of 15,000 feet.
Nonie Enolva of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources told the Inquirer that the cause of the shark’s death was unknown, and that the bureau plans to stuff the animal and put it on display.