A woman whose brain surgery was cancelled 10 minutes before she was due to be taken to the operating theater is calling for a major review of the health service.
Loughbrickland, Co. Down mother-of-two Susan Coburn says she has lost faith in the health service following her experience last week.
Coburn, who suffers from a rare and life-threatening brain condition, was due to undergo brain surgery on Thursday.
However, 10 minutes before her allotted time at 3 p.m., her surgeon, dressed for home with his car keys in hand, informed her the operation was cancelled.
“I was in disbelief and shocked,” she said. “You are ready to be wheeled down to the theater and then the surgeon comes to me with his car keys in his hands, ready to go home, to tell me, ‘We are sorry, there is nothing we can so about it, your surgery was cancelled.’”
Coburn suffers from a rare brain condition which means her skull is abnormally small, so tissue from the back of her brain protrudes into the spinal column.
The operation at the Royal Victoria Hospital was to relieve the pressure on her brain.
The 43-year-old explained, “The health service is in a terrible state. I don’t trust it and a lot of people don’t trust it.”
Her husband Rodney is also calling for an urgent review of the health service. “The circumstances of this case need to be investigated, in terms of the availability of beds, the harmonizing of beds with surgery and the administration of hospitals,” he said.
A Belfast Trust spokeswoman denied there was any issue with bed shortages presently and would not comment on Coburn’s case.
The trust added, “We are sorry that at times theatre lists run over, resulting in some operations having to be postponed. When this happens they are rescheduled as soon as possible.”
Coburn’s surgery has been rescheduled for May 17.
Gay Rural Problems
Young, rural lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are seven times more likely to commit suicide and 14 times more likely to inflict self harm than their straight counterparts.
This is according to a new study titled “Coming Out -- LGBT Young People: Challenges and Support Needs in Rural Ireland,” which was on April 20. The study had a strong local influence as it was commissioned by Kildare Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Group (LBGT).
Bernadette Smyth, author of the report, pointed out the issues faced in rural areas, like Kildare, were different to those faced in urban areas.
She said young LGBT people can experience mental health issues, depression, victimization, discrimination, alcohol abuse, self-harm and suicide. She noted the fear of coming out was a huge issue with many young people who were forced to move from their rural homes to larger towns and cities in order to be able to express themselves fully.
The report found that the most common age that people discovered their sexual orientation was 12, but some children realized it at as young an age as eight.
However, the most common age for coming out was 17 for males, and 18 for females, with many young people keeping their sexual identity hidden for up to six years.
“It’s especially hard in rural areas where everyone knows everyone,” she explained.
“In the country or outside of the cities and towns, one person comes out to another person and then everyone knows. You are coming out to the entire community. For young people who are very vulnerable at that age, they may feel they have to give up everything.”
One respondent told of how his sister was beaten up on her way home from school because he came out and told people about his sexuality.
The study noted that young LBGT people were two to five times more likely to use drugs, while 65% had some experience of drugs, compared to just 25% in the general youth population.
AS part of Alcohol Awareness Month, new research from Aviva Health Insurance has revealed that people in Kilkenny are spending over 1,800euro per year on alcohol, with men spending significantly more than women, at 2,104euro and 1,592euro respectively.
The research also revealed that people are drinking excessively, with men consuming an average of 14 alcohol units per week and women consuming an average of eight. While this is below the recommended weekly limit of 21 units for men and 14 units for women, it raises concerns given that this limit identifies when damage is caused to one’s health by alcohol.
Regionally, the research shows people in counties Dublin and Louth drink the most alcohol, consuming an average of 12 units per week, while counties Carlow, Donegal, Kerry, Laois, Roscommon and Tipperary reported the lowest level of drinking, at nine units per week.
The statistics for this research were collected via the Aviva Online Health Check which was completed by 20,043 people between December 2008 and April 2011 and involved respondents answering a series of questions on their health and lifestyle habits.
Earlier in the year, Aviva released smoking statistics that showed that women in Ireland are smoking double the amount of cigarettes to men, highlighting the trend that women are still smoking more.
Help for Minorities
A Strabane ethnic minorities group is calling for a proposed crisis fund to be enacted to help the rising tide of destitute foreign nationals.
Last week, volunteers with Strabane Ethnic Community Association (SECA) traveled to Belfast to lobby a cross-party delegation at a debate organized by NICEM (the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities). NICEM chairman Bobby Rao first called for a proposed crisis fund to be implemented in 2010.
It followed the case of a Hungarian man living and working illegally in Castlederg during construction's boom years. After five years he found himself unemployed and homeless during 2010's sub zero winter.
He was sheltered by a kind neighbor during the thick snows of December/January, later finding lodgings and employment with help from Strabane Ethnic Community Association.
Rao has been dealing with scores in the same situation over the last three years. He says the economic downturn has done little to deter many Eastern Europeans coming to Northern Ireland in search of work. The majority find work scarce and lodgings too expensive.
But unlike thousands of jobless across Northern Ireland, unemployed migrants from countries such as Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, struggle with heavy restrictions on their social security entitlements implemented by New Labor following an influx of Eastern Europeans seeking work in the newly opened U.K. labor market.
Yet, despite the reality on the ground, political party opposition still relegates a proposed crisis fund in Northern Ireland to the paper it is written on.
“This started in 2008, when the economic downturn started, and the numbers are still growing," Rao said.
“It is affecting Eastern Europeans who don't need a job before they come here, unlike workers from Asia or other areas. A lot still come looking for work, most of them go to Dublin and then come up to the North.
“Some of them have friends here who put them up and they are okay. But some will come up and their friends are not here or they cannot get a job or afford the rent."
This month Rao was contacted by staff at Newtownstewart Library after a Polish woman in her late twenties came to the library seeking help. She had arrived in Dublin weeks earlier, but with little English, no phone, money or lodgings, she was destitute.
Rao and staff at Strabane's Housing Executive found her accommodation.
“I spent a full day with this woman and it was very stressful because she didn't speak any English. It is emotionally hard too. I have no idea if she is okay now," Rao said.
“I am asking the political parties, what are they going to do ensure we have a dedicated service available to provide vulnerable migrants with temporary assistance?”
Strabane Weekly News
No More Houses
Residents in an area of north Dublin awash with empty homes are objecting to plans to build even more new properties.
Homeowners in Brackenwood in Balbriggan say there is no need for a new development of 18 units, since they are already flanked by empty homes in surrounding estates.
The developers, Parkway Partnership, were last week granted planning permission for the units, which will be located adjacent to Brackenwood, after they modified their original application.
But local resident Rose Allen said, "We don't need any more houses. Who has the money to buy houses now?
"Now we have a developer coming in who wants to build 18 houses and it's the only green that we have in our estate. They're all going to be crammed in because the site is no bigger than a football pitch.”
A spokesperson for Parkway Partnership said he believed there would be a market for the new housing development which, he added, would be sympathetic to the surrounding area.
"We got the planning permission a couple of years ago, and we're just varying it now. We're actually putting in a much more sympathetic plan with less housing units, lower density and lower height,” he said.