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Mayo News 7 Jan 2004
Jan 13, 2004, 19:45

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Out-of-hours Westdoc G.P. service has busy Christmas

THE out-of-hours G.P. service, Westdoc, now celebrating its first year in existence, attended to almost 500 patients on St. Stephen’s Day recently, according to a report released by the Western Health Board. To date, a total of 42,000 patients have been seen by Westdoc G.P.s and further expansions to meet growing demands are planned for 2004. Overall, the service experienced a very busy Christmas period and required the deployment of extra staff to meet with the high holiday time demand catering to medical emergencies in Mayo, Galway and Roscommon. A total of 104 G.P.s are currently employed by Westdoc which also has 65 other staff. According to a health board spokesperson, the introduction of the service has led to a more streamlined G.P. emergency service and has also meant that G.P.s now work on more efficient rotas.

An Bord Pleanála varying 60% of Council decisions appealed

ALMOST 60% of Mayo County Council’s planning decisions referred to An Bord Pleanála in 2002 were either overturned or varied, according to the Board’s annual report published last week. Of the 177 decisions of Mayo County Council which were appealed, 38.3% were reversed and 21.1% were varied by An Bord Pleanála. However, the number of planning decisions by Mayo County Council appealed to An Bord Pleanála in 2002 (6.8%) was lower than the national average of the other 33 planning authorities in the country (8.2%). 177 out of Mayo County Council’s 2,604 planning decisions were appealed.

A spokesperson from An Taisce’s head office in Dublin told the Mayo News that the body had appealed eight decisions of Mayo County Council to An Bord Pleanala in 2002 and appealed 14 decisions in 2003.

Time to pull together

TOWARDS the end of this month, a conference in Athlone will be told of a new concept in the search for ways and means to promote smaller towns. Based on a successful Danish model, the plan will see a cluster of neighbouring towns in the Midlands pool their collective resources in order to develop as a single unit. There should be nothing unusual in the idea of neighbouring towns working together to common purpose. Although the historical experience has been one off towns competing with each other, the logic of pulling together speaks for itself. Nor should it run counter to the National Spatial Strategy of gateways and hub towns, uncertain now as that strategy may be in the aftermath of the decentralisation announcements. Many of the gateway and hub towns, even with the best will in the world, are decades away from becoming what the Strategy envisions them to be. All the more reason then for such centres to become key players in a more general local strategy, providing the focus around which the neighbourhood can develop.

I see the Westdoc ads popping up on Google every so often. I hadn’t realised that this co-ordinated GP system was as big as it appears to be from the Western Health Board report. I had assumed that it was a privately run affair. In the light of all the fuss over the Hanly report on the health services efficient primary care services are absolutely essential. A well equipped GP’s surgery especially in the more remote areas of the West is a real life saver.

An Taisce appealed just 8 decisions of Mayo County Council in 2002 and 14 in 2003! According to Jerry Cowley you would think that An Taisce are responsible for end of western civilisation as we know it. In fact with a local authority with 12 auctioneers on board who make dramatic changes to the county development plan which are clearly in their interests generally speaking as auctioneers involved in the sale of land and property - we definitely need an independent body like An Taisce and An Board Pleanala.

The conference referred to in the editorial of the Mayo News sounds very interesting. Charlie McCreevy’s budget speech undermined the National Spatial Strategy when he proposed the decentralisation of government departments to constituencies all over the country but not related in any obvious way to the targeted locations for growth by the Spatial Strategy. This conference hopefully will provide some new ideas apart from the present trend towards an unfettered and unplanned commuting sprawl which prevents real community development. Shops, schools and churches simply close down due to lack off critical mass.

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