Wednesday 17 January 2018

HSE chief warns of patient risk due to obsolete equipment

Tony O’Brien, director general of the HSE.
Tony O’Brien, director general of the HSE.
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Some of the outdated hospital machines which are now used for public patients are so obsolete they should be shut down, HSE chief Tony O'Brien has warned.

The state of equipment had implications for quality and patient safety, he said. The HSE had not been given enough capital funding to replace ventilators, MRI diagnostic machines and X-ray equipment.

A lot of the ambulance fleet also needed to be renewed but the budget would not stretch far enough because so much capital funding was spent on flagship hospital construction projects, he said.

"Of great concern to me is the amount of money available to use between 2017 and 2021 to pay for our ambulances, X-ray machines, MRIs and all other types of equipment we critically depend on," he said.

"That sum is €2.25bn. However, the sum does not meet the €3.64bn required in order to meet the long list of priority replacements in order to maintain safety and quality in the health system."

Mr O'Brien, who was appearing before the Dáil's Future of Healthcare Committee, said year-on-year hospital equipment was having its life extended to the point where it became "unserviceable".

The HSE's director of acute hospitals Liam Woods also revealed hospitals were so squeezed due to an influx of patients, their capacity to do non-elective surgery for waiting list patients was reduced by 1,000 to 1,500 cases annually.

Mr O'Brien said due to the rise in patients attending emergency departments, more emergency and less non-emergency work was being carried out.

"If these trends continue, we will be unable to accommodate elective work in the future," he said.

Hospital waiting lists have reached all-time-record levels in recent months with more than 530,000 in the queue for surgery, a consultant appointment or a diagnostic endoscopy.

The meeting was also told that some patients may be using admission to hospital as a way of getting a home care package.

Mr O'Brien told the TDs that some 80pc of health services were of a very high standard.

But these services were overshadowed by the 20pc of services "that are not delivered as well as we would all like".

He told the committee, which was drawing up a 10-year plan for the health services, that it was essential there was a shift away from acute hospital settings, towards primary care.

However, he warned resources could not be moved from one part of its service to another as this would "probably collapse our system overall".

Therefore, it would be necessary to invest upfront while also maintaining existing services. He said he was making no apology for saying the necessary transformation would not happen in an overstretched system, unless funding was delivered.

Irish Independent

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