Doctors fear patient death from obsolete machine
Diagnostic equipment in St James's Hospital in Dublin - which is so obsolete that doctors fear it will potentially lead to a patient death - has to be put out of use, the Irish Independent has learned.
A memo received by doctors at the hospital last week said it means that St James's - one of the country's main cancer centres - can no longer see patients from other counties for some endoscopy services.
The outdated machine, which breaks down several times a day, is the main screening device for performing ERCP, a process which detects any diseases in the bile or pancreatic ducts, such as cancer, gall stones and infections. It can also remove gallstones.
The HSE has refused to fund a new machine and the hospital cannot find any more spare parts to maintain it and work it safely.
The doctors have repeatedly warned the HSE of the risk to patients from the machine but have had no response.
Doctors who have struggled with the machine for years were informed late last week that the hospital will make alternative arrangements for its own patients only.
A spokeswoman for the hospital confirmed yesterday that the machine was recently put out of use and a contingency had been put in place.
Nationally, waiting lists for endoscopy have spiralled for most of the year and although limited funding to provide private appointments for some of the public patients waiting the longest has seen some slight improvement, a worrying 18,000 are waiting for tests.
This leads to a risk of delayed diagnosis of a serious condition.
The St James's unit is among the best-performing in the country through its work in tackling waiting lists.
But it is also facing problems with other old equipment, which may also have to be decommissioned.