Cuts force hospitals to treat their patients with 'antique' equipment
Struggling hospitals are being forced to treat patients with "antique" medical equipment which can break down in the middle of procedures, leading doctors warned yesterday.
Cutbacks have left Sligo Regional Hospital relying on a fluoroscopy unit - used for X-ray exams - which is 15 years old. It can be maintained only by using parts from a decommissioned version imported from Japan, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) revealed.
Launching the IHCA's pre-Budget submission, IHCA President Dr Tom Ryan, an anaesthetist at St James's Hospital, Dublin, said in his own hospital there was not enough funding to replace endoscopes, which are used to examine the inside of the body.
"If you do not have enough endoscopes, you have to wait until the endoscopes get cleaned between patients and, so consequently, the efficiency of your unit gradually drops and you can process fewer and fewer patients. You should have more endoscopes than patients," he said.
Dr Oisin O'Connell, specialist in heart and lung transplantation in the Mater Hospital, revealed that overcrowding means cancer and transplant patients can be reduced to competing for the same bed.
"If a cancer patient needs to be admitted in these circumstances, their operation can be cancelled," he said.
"A transplant patient who gets sick with pneumonia or rejection may need the same bed.
"My patients don't have time to wait."
Some patients must be referred to the hospital's emergency department in a bid to secure a bed through that route rather than direct admission.
He returned to Ireland after training in top hospitals abroad but he said he was still without an office.
Doctors ended up "begging" for supports and facilities, making business cases which were deemed unaffordable by the HSE, he added.
The Mater has just seven ringfenced beds for transplant patients even though the numbers undergoing these vital operations have risen by 360pc in the past five years.
"The Mater is well run but not being supported," he added.
The IHCA is calling for a "realistic health budget" for acute hospitals and mental health services.
Secretary-general Martin Varley said the difficulties in recruiting hospital consultants here appeared to be worsening and last year one in four of these jobs which were advertised had no applicant.
Some 65pc of posts for psychiatrists could not be filled last year. In some hospitals, one-third of consultants are temporary.
Dr Roy Browne, a psychiatrist, pointed out that interviews for consultant posts used to attract "queues" of doctors but the conditions they face mean it is increasingly difficult to encourage medics to work here in a competitive global market. Pay cuts for new entrants mean there is still a salary gap between doctors working in the same specialities.