Hospitals are forced to struggle on with obsolete equipment
Hospitals across the country are increasingly struggling with equipment which manufacturers will no longer stand over, according to the Irish Hospital Consultants Association.
The warning comes as St James's Hospital in Dublin was forced to decommission diagnostic equipment which is so obsolete that doctors fear it could potentially lead to a patient death.
The machine in the endoscopy unit was the main screening device for performing ERCP - a process which detects any diseases in the bile or pancreatic ducts including cancer and gall stones - but a memo to doctors said it was constantly breaking down.
The doctors were told that patients from outside the St James's catchment area and around the country could no longer be referred to the endoscopy unit for treatment.
The letter, which blamed the HSE for a lack of funding, described the situation as a "thoroughly disgraceful and more reductions in service will have to be implemented with potential consequences for cancer management as well as the care of acute and medical patients".
A spokesman for the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, which includes St James's, said yesterday that the unit would continue to try to treat patients from outside its area for this procedure on another device and that "delays will be minimised".
However, he was unable to say what the waiting time would be.
The hospital group has received a business case from St James's Hospital for the replacement of the endoscopy machine, he added.
"It is currently being considered by the group and HSE at national level, taking account of existing budgetary constraints and overall capital funding plans," he said.
"The HSE has provided almost €1m for the upkeep and replacement of machinery at the unit."
The HSE said it received an allocation of €25m in the 2016 Capital Plan on top of the funding earmarked for the purchase of new machinery as part of new developments. It said it had a policy on safety and risk.