Manx Independent letters, December 24, 2015

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Congratulations to the hospital

I recently spent five weeks in Noble’s Hospital after a major operation.

After my experience and the adverse comments I’ve heard about the hospital, I felt compelled to write to you.

The operation was a success, but I had a bad reaction to the anaesthetic and ended up in intensive care.

At this time I felt very low, but with the superb care I received from the doctors, nurses, care assistants and my wife recovered and was able to go home.

I must also mention Ramsey Cottage Hospital where I spent three days for rehab.

All the staff on ward 1, intensive care, ward 9 and Martin’s ward were so professional, patient and caring looking after me 24/7. They were always there when I needed them and also provided care and support to my wife.

Incredibly, I understand that some staff are only paid eight pounds an hour. Would you empty bed pans and wipe someone’s backside for this meagre amount?

Hats off to all the staff for their care, dedication and, dare I say, love.

We must look after the NHS – it is so valuable to us all.

Thank you and God bless you all.

PF Worner, Mountain View, Ballaugh.

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Out of theatre in just 30 minutes

Mr Mushlaq Khan, ophthalmologist at Noble’s Hospital, winkled out a cataract from my right eye on Monday, December 12, with Dr Biggart as the consultant anaesthetist.

You expect any ‘day procedure suite’ to be endlessly busy. But it’s how this is coped with that sorts the syringes from the cotton scabs.

At the day procedure suite at Noble’s, it’s all syringes. Not a cotton scab in metaphorical sight. If every department at Noble’s is run as seamlessly, professionally and caringly I (almost) look forward to going into hospital.

In theatre, the operation went as smoothly as water over marble. The flashing, undulating light in my eye during the operation, apparitional – I waited breathlessly for a miniature deity to appear in my eye. S/he didn’t.

All surgery carries risk, a queasy stomach and a dry mouth. The risk is ‘par for the course’. The queasy stomach and dry mouth optional extras – the severity of which is determined by whether we’re all ‘mouth and trousers’ or not.

Some see cataract removal as a minor operation. There’s no such animal as a minor operation. For the ‘some’ here’s what happens.

A nurse puts drops in my eye to swell the pupil. The anaesthetist inserts the needle of a syringe beneath my eye. Fifteen minutes later my face/head is a block of wood. I touch it on the way to theatre.

The surgeon makes a hole in my cornea (the clear layer at the front of every eye). A probe, emitting high-frequency sound waves, is introduced into this hole. It smashes the affected lens into smithereens. These smithereens are then liquefied and sucked out. Still with me you ‘some’ are we?

Another probe sucks out the remaining soft pieces of outer lens. The surgeon then gets down to the business of injecting, through the hole in the cornea, my new plastic lens.

About 20 minutes into the operation I hear an enormously reassuring voice; ‘We’re almost done, Mr Boyle.’

‘Thank you, Mr Khan.’

During the entire operation I felt no pain just this wonderful wavy sparking light in my eye. I went into theatre at midday. Out at 12.30pm. Home having a cup of tea at 1.30pm.

John Boyle, Strang Close, Douglas.

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Protect our public spaces

The independent planning inspector [for the Douglas Promenade proposal, see page 4] took oral evidence during three days, including an evening, between November 21 and 23, and kept the inquiry open for specific written submissions by the applicant, Douglas Borough Council (which plans to operate the horse trams on the walkway) and the principal objectors. Following the late submission of one of the these, from the highways directorate of the department, the inquiry remained open at December 21.

It seems unlikely therefore, given the weight of evidence submitted, that the inspector will give his report to the Council of Ministers before late January.

Anyone who attended the inquiry will be amazed if the inspector recommends approval of the application. Even if the Council of Ministers give planning consent they then have to recommend the capital expenditure for Tynwald to approve this £21m scheme.

The official ‘spin’ when the planning application was submitted was that it was a scheme for the next 50 years yet it made no provision for improved sea defences (see photo at high tide last weekend) and it was designed to maximise car parking spaces at a time when there were on average around 300 empty spaces in the Chester Street car park each day and a 580-space car park is to be built nearby.

The application was submitted on the last day of the old planning system with an intention to change it after submission, something no other planning applicant would get away with. Even one of the Department of Infrastructure’s own consultants referred to a ‘wall of parked cars’.

During the inquiry we discovered that the department changed its policy regarding the positioning of the horse trams based on the representations of ‘stakeholders’ but there were no minutes of any meetings and initially the department told the inspector there was no correspondence (they later said there was) and that the department did not undertake any surveys of existing use of the walkway by pedestrians and have no statistics for use of the walkway.

The Isle of Man may have lots of beautiful open countryside but Douglas and Onchan, where the majority of the population live and/or work, has a chronic shortage of public open space.

Now that nearly every street, and often pavements and gardens too, are used for car parking it is vital that the public open space is maintained, or enhanced, for the benefit of a record number, still increasing, of residents in central Douglas, users from all over the island and visitors, too.

Two of the many consultants paid by the department to give evidence did not even accept that the Douglas Town Plan designated the whole of the walkway as public open space but the government’s own planning directorate gave counter evidence to support the unpaid objectors who used their holiday entitlement to attend the inquiry.

The founders of the Campaign to Keep Cars and Trams off the Walkway, which has more than 3,300 supporters on Facebook and many others too, believe that the use of the walkway for car parking in a conservation area, as they did for six months last year and a further seven weeks at present, is a breach of its conservation status.

The plan to resurface the walkway with tarmac is indicative of the contempt with which the department treats the public open space and conservation area which must be preserved or enhanced for the planning application to succeed.

The consultants paid by the Douglas rate payers to provide a risk assessment delivered their report late, just one day before the inquiry opened and six months after the planning application was made. It is believed that the 275 objectors to a planning application was a record for the Isle of Man and several of these, and their representatives, challenged the four separate risk assessments paid for from public funds.

If the application is approved, at worst, there will be downright danger and there might be a serious injury by mixing the trams with prams, walkers, runners, cyclists, skate boarders, old people and dog walkers who are not required under Douglas by-laws to keep dogs on a lead. At best, there will be a ‘no go area’ where the trams operate, with unsightly safety signs and perhaps even an internment camp style fence. In the words of one of the department’s staff the public will be ‘encouraged to change their behaviour’. In the words of the protestors ‘the department create a problem and expect the public to solve it by changing their behaviour’.

The current uninhibited use of the walkway where children learn to ride their bikes and parents and grandparents allow youngsters to roam ahead without any safety fears will be lost.

The planning application stated that the department owned all of the land affected by the planning application when they didn’t and the Douglas Corporation owned Queen’s Gardens is to lose a strip of grass and a number of palm trees. The corporation said that the trees would be relocated but did not appear to appreciate that the promenade consists of four separate conservation areas and each one of them must be preserved or enhanced by the planning application.

Not only did the planning application fail to provide details of how the gardens would be preserved or enhanced but they failed to give any information about the siting of ‘street furniture’. The artist’s impression, when the scheme was first publicised, showed the seating moved from the shelter of the sunken gardens, where people can view the walkway as well as the harbour, to an exposed position alongside the sea wall with no view of the walkway to watch children or engage with the passers-by.

Another area where the application lacked any detail was the proposed cultural area which the department wishes to create in front of the Sefton Hotel and Gaiety Theatre – it is very close to the well-known cultural area known as the Sayle Gallery from which public funding is to be withdrawn.

The department tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent a submission by former MLC Dudley Butt which contradicted some of the department’s representations.

Your newspaper’s own public survey revealed an extraordinarily high level of interest in the promenade and only one in seven people wished to see the horse trams relocated to the walkway where arrangements for removing horse manure are ‘still being talked about’.

Here is a vision of how the promenade could be developed for the next 50 years.

How about a wide traffic-free walkway with views of the harbour, with mountains in the background to be used for recreation and the practicalities of travelling to and from work without a carbon footprint?

It’s already there but the department is intent on destroying it by parking cars on it, by moving horse trams into the public open space and changing the surface to look like a road but with more signs than any road. One of the protestors observed: ‘It is department’s stated aim to make the roadway more pedestrian friendly, and to achieve this they are making the walkway less pedestrian friendly!’

A new scheme for the promenade will be necessary next year when this one fails.

Let’s hope that it is either a ‘patch and make good’ at minimum cost to the taxpayer or it really is something that will do the Isle of Man proud for the next 50 years.

Murray Lambden, Brunswick Road, Douglas

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