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Old radiological machines failing during procedures

An internal HSE document has highlighted the problem of outdated radiological devices ‘failing’ during clinical procedures, the Medical Independent (MI) can reveal.

“Reliability monitoring” of radiology equipment by the HSE’s corporate estates section over the last three years has allowed for data to be produced on the most “unreliable” radiological equipment across HSE-funded hospitals.

According to the internal HSE document, Risk status on medical equipment August 2019, obtained by MI through Freedom of Information law, of the top most unreliable radiological devices, over a two-year period, 86 per cent are greater than 10 years old.

“Within this category, 54 per cent have had more than 10 failure events per year during a clinical procedure,” according to the document.

Of these 50 machines, 52 per cent are critical radiology systems, such as interventional fluoroscopy, CT or MRI that are required during emergencies. The value of the backlog of ageing medical equipment greater than 10 years old has risen to €392 million, according to the document.

Data analysis conducted by the HSE’s corporate estates and issued to the Department of Heath during 2016 outlined a concerning backlog of aged and at-risk critical equipment.

The total backlog in 2016 was approximately 9,000 items, which was valued at €322 million.

At the time, corporate estates stated if this issue was not addressed and current investment levels were not increased to the proposed annual investment of €65 million, the backlog would continue to increase.

From 2016 to 2019, such annual investment would have amounted to €260 million.

According to the August report, there has been a shortfall of €124 million in this necessary investment from 2016 to 2019.

In 2016 only €26 million was invested; in 2017 €41 million; in 2018 €24 million; and in 2019 €45 million.

Since the HSE’s national equipment replacement programme was established in 2012, total investment has been €164 million.

“This funding provision equates to average annual funding of €33 million, where an investment of €520 million was required,” according to the document.

“As a result of this €256 million shortfall in required funding, the backlog of ageing medical equipment greater than 10 years old has risen to €392 million.”

The HSE’s new capital plan said the annual investment in equipment would be increased “significantly” over the coming years in line with recommendations in the 2016 report.

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