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Risk of ageing equipment ‘real and untenable’

Ageing and unfit-for-purpose medical equipment represents a “real and untenable” risk for the HSE, according to the Executive’s risk committee, the Medical Independent (MI) can report.

A meeting of the committee on 29 April, the minutes of which were seen by this newspaper, heard that the HSE should explore new ways of managing equipment budgets. 

Background information was provided to the committee on the National Equipment Replacement Programme (NERP), which was established with the aim of ensuring that hospital equipment remains clinically appropriate and can be maintained at an adequate level to ensure the safety of patients.

Having reviewed the paper in detail, the committee noted that “the risk profile of medical equipment is increasing, with breakdowns during procedures and wider loss of services to patients”.

“Overall… the accumulation of risk is real and untenable for both patient safety and for the organisation,” according to the minutes.

Specific to the new national children’s hospital, it was noted that discussions are continuing with regards to options for provision of equipping requirements.

The committee stressed the importance of prioritising the annual budget for the next 10 years to mitigate increases in the quantity and failure of ageing equipment.

“The committee requested that the National Director explore, in the best interest of patients and care, alternative methods for the management of equipment budgets,” according to the minutes.

“The committee also requested that a critical appraisal be carried out in order to ensure safe procedures regarding equipment for patients and all lease arrangements should be reviewed to ensure that they are up-to-date.”

“However, notwithstanding national policy, the committee are of the view that the HSE needs to continue to inform policy development, in particular, defining the role of the smaller hospitals and appropriate investment.”

A total of €39.5 million is being allocated to the HSE’s NERP in 2019, according to the HSE’s capital plan, which was recently published.

The capital plan, which covers 2019 to 2021, states that the shortfalls in capital allocations for these programmes over the last decade, and particularly in 2018, when they were reduced by 50 per cent, have resulted in an increased backlog of unmet minor capital, equipment replacement and ambulance replacement requests.

“It is planned to increase the level of annual investment significantly to the sustainable level of investment and address the outstanding deficit in the remaining years of the National Development Plan, as per the June 2016 Health Service Executive Report on the Equipment Replacement Programme. From a risk and patient safety perspective, these increases in allocations are critical,” according to the capital plan.

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