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2nd September 1997
Minutes of Special Meeting of Strabane District Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, Derry Road, Strabane on Tuesday 2 September 1997 at 7.30 p.m.
Present:- In the Chair:- Councillor E Mullen Other Members:- Councillors Mrs A Bell, I Barr, D A Bresland, M Conway, J Donnell, J Emery, D Hussey, T Kerrigan, T McBride, C McHugh, E McMenamin, J McNulty, I Murtagh, J O'Kane E Turner MBE Total = 16
In Attendance:- Mrs S Burnside, Dr F O'Connor, Miss R Ryan,
Mr R McCartney, Mr N Smyth, Mr T Melaugh,
Mr M Doherty - Altnagelvin Hospital Trust
Mrs B Ward - Western Area Drugs Co-Ordinator
Clerk and Chief Executive, Committee Clerk
The Chairman of the Council expressed sympathy at the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Mr Fayed and the driver of the vehicle. He paid tribute to the outstanding work which she had carried out for many charitable causes and especially for AIDS and the anti-mine lobby. The Chairman proposed, seconded by Councillor McMenamin, that books of condolences for the people of Strabane and district to sign be placed in Strabane, Castlederg and Newtownstewart. He indicated that he would be signing the book of condolence and would encourage other Councillors to do so. He further proposed that the Council send letters of sympathy to the respective families expressing the Council's deep regret at the sad loss of life. Anyone wishing to lay floral tributes could do so at the Council Offices, however, he suggested that the public may prefer to send donations to the Memorial Trust Fund which had been set up for the respective charities favoured by the Princess. Councillor Bresland requested that books of condolences also be placed in Donemana, Sion Mills and Plumbridge and this was agreed.
In paying tribute to the Princess, Councillor Emery referred to the charitable institutions of which the Princess had been patron of, many of which had branches in the province. He proposed, seconded by Councillor Kerrigan, that the meeting be adjourned as a mark of respect.
Whilst appreciating the sentiments expressed, the Chairman urged Members to bear in mind that officials were present at the meeting to discuss issues relating to health and drug abuse, matters in which the Princess had a particular interest. Councillor Barr stated that he had no difficulty in supporting the motion of sympathy for Princess Diana given the many humanitarian causes which she was associated with, however, he would in no way have any sympathy associated with the other connection i.e. the Royal Family. In relation to adjournment of meetings, he remarked that it had been the Council's custom and practice not to adjourn meetings following motions of sympathy. He also pointed out that the Chief Executive had highlighted at the Economic Development Committee meeting the previous evening the tight schedule of meetings for September and that any adjournment would lead to further complications.
Councillor Hussey spoke in favour of an adjournment given that the tragedy had touched so many people worldwide. Councillor Turner suggested to the proposer that the meeting be adjourned for a short time as a mark of respect. The proposer and seconder of the motion, Councillors Emery and Kerrigan, accepted this and that the meeting be adjourned for 30 minutes as a mark of respect. This was agreed with 12 members in favour.
The meeting adjourned at 7.55 pm and recommenced at 8.25 pm.
Councillor Hussey referred to the Memorial Trust Fund which had been set up and suggested that Councillors might wish to donate their allowance for attendance at tonight's meeting to the Trust Fund. It was agreed that any Councillor wishing to do this should advise the Chief Executive accordingly.
Western Health Hospitals Future Strategy
The Chairman, on behalf of the Council, welcomed the officials to the meeting and invited them to make their presentation after which Councillors would have an opportunity to clarify any queries.
Mr McCartney outlined, with the aid of overheads, the viability of acute care provision issues in Altnagelvin Hospital, workload/patient volume. A reassurance was given that the Hospital was making best use of its facilities and specialists. Quality of treatment and care issues were explained. Emergency workloads were continuing to increase. Altnagelvin Hospital was not receiving the same level of resourcing per capita as that provided in other areas of the Province or on the mainland. There was a 30% increase in the number of in-patients over the past few years. Funding from 1991 to 1996/97 had been reduced by £1.2 million. In relation to general surgery, research had shown that the population in Derry/Limavady/Strabane had the poorest access to surgical services in the province and the relevant statistics were quoted to Members. Mrs Burnside stressed the need to change the pattern of care and that acute services needed to be on a certain scale in order to become more effective.
The officials responded to queries raised by Members with regard to the catchment area, poor roads infrastructure, clinic provision in Strabane currently matched local need, statistics were awaited on the GP Co-operatives, GP referrals were increasing. Statistics showed that Altnagelvin Hospital has the longest general surgery waiting list in Northern Ireland. It was explained that this was a direct result of the low access and that there was insufficient space in the surgeon's timetable and a lack of beds. Mrs Burnside explained that the Executive Group would be visiting other Councils in the area and would welcome a co-ordinated approach in the lobby for additional funding. She also urged Councillors to use their influence in discussions with the relevant bodies, Ministers etc.
The Chairman thanked the officials for their informative presentation and explained that a copy of the overheads and background information would be circulated to all Members for their perusal. The officials responded accordingly and left the meeting at this juncture.
Drugs Strategy & Action Plan 1997/98 & 1998/99
The Chairman, on behalf of the Council, welcomed Mrs Ward to the meeting and invited her to address Members on the Drugs Strategy and Action Plan, copy of which was previously circulated. He explained that Members would have an opportunity after the presentation to clarify any points.
Mrs Ward outlined, with the aid of overheads, the strategy and action plan. Drugs Co-Ordinating Teams were formed in 1996 and the aim was to assess and identify gaps/overlaps in service provision; consider information and research needs; ensure local co-ordination of policies, strategies and programmes; develop local action plans in response to local needs; consult and mobilise community groups and monitor and evaluate progress, issues and work. The Co-Ordinating Team had representatives from the NIHE, Sperrin Lakeland Trust, RUC Drugs Squad, Aisling Centre - Enniskillen, WELB, Northlands Centre, Foyle Trust, Probation Board and the WHSSB. Drug misuse in the West was of concern i.e. illegal drugs, over-the-counter medications and prescribed drugs. Although alcohol persists as the core addiction issue in the West, there is a widespread ambivalence towards its use. Drug use tends to be recreational in setting and young people increasingly accept it as the norm. The key objective is to co-ordinate drug awareness and other drug related training and to create and develop a drugs misuses database/information system within the West. Actions of interest for District Councils were availability of information, licensing issues, sale/misuse of over-the-counter medications, sale/misuse of solvents, "user friendly" points of contact for young people, training for staff members.
The Chairman welcomed the strategy review and the co-ordinated approach. In response to a query by Councillor McNulty, Mrs Ward explained that there was an increase in use of recreational drugs. Councillor McHugh expressed concern at underage drinking and he felt this problem should be tackled more strongly. He spoke of the need for education on drug misuse through parents etc. and the need for groups to be established in smaller communities in tackling the problems. Mrs Ward explained that this was a two year strategy and it was intended to set up a group in each District Council area before March 1998. Councillor Barr remarked that the Northlands Centre had set up a Drugs Advisory Group in Strabane. He was particularly concerned at underage drinking and urged the Licensed Vintners Association and other Groups to tackle this problem. Mrs Ward stated that young people were consuming alcohol at an earlier age which subsequently led to experimentation with drugs and that community involvement would assist in tackling the problem. Councillor Hussey concurred with the need for more intense policing of those members of the licensed trade who sold alcohol to persons underage. He expressed concern at organised bus journeys to night clubs and the associated misuse of alcohol and drugs by persons, many of whom were underage and urged that this problem be tackled by the relevant authorities. Councillor O'Kane suggested that a seminar, similar to that held in Donegal, highlighting the dangers of drugs could be organised with the relevant authorities in attendance including the RUC Drugs Squad.
The Chairman concluded by thanking Mrs Ward for her comprehensive presentation and welcomed the implementation of the strategy. He suggested that the Drugs Co-Ordination Team could work closely with the relevant Council Officials in tackling the problems highlighted. Mrs Ward responded accordingly.
National Association of Councillors AGM - 17 September 1997
The Chairman reminded Members of the above meeting to be held in the Everglades Hotel and it was agreed that those wishing to attend should submit their names, as soon as possible, to the Chief Executive.
Friends of Strabane Hospital
In response to a query by Councillor O'Kane, the Chairman explained that arrangements could be made for the Friends of Strabane Hospital to meet with Council prior to the meeting with Mr Frawley. This was agreed.
The meeting closed at 10.20 p.m.
DATED this 2nd day of SEPTEMBER 1997
Clerk and Chief Executive
DATED this 23rd day of SEPTEMBER 1997
Chairman of the Council