Concern has been expressed over the suspension of scans from a new €0.5 million diagnostic CAT machine at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Ennis. The Mid-Western Hospital Development Trust provided funding for the capital cost of the CAT following a campaign mounted by former Ennis hospital consultant and board member, Gerry Byrnes, over the past 16 years.
A spokesperson for the trust said it is very concerned that the CAT scanning service is not being provided for people living in Clare and South Galway. The spokesperson added that this is the first time that a piece of medical equipment or a facility funded by the group had to be suspended a short time after its installation and hoped that all the issues leading to its suspension would be addressed by the HSE as soon as possible.
The Clare Champion was informed that the CAT scanner also closed for a week at the start of September because of staff sickness and patient safety reasons. According to a source, the latest suspension came into effect on Tuesday, September 30 and the new machine has been lying idle since.
The two-week closure was condemned as “disturbing news” by Deputy Joe Carey, who claimed there were reports that the machine was not functioning because of staffing issues.
“The HSE has withdrawn service after service from Ennis hospital. The local population needs to know that those services left are committed to, properly staffed and fully operational,” the deputy said.
“Hospital management have questions to answer on why this facility is not fully functioning only three months into coming into operation. We need a clear statement from the HSE clarifying why the CAT scanner has been closed down, when it will be operational again, as well as a commitment to resolve any staffing issues.”
The HSE provided €1 million to provide a new building to accommodate the CAT scanner, existing ultrasound machine, x-ray and radiology department and the entrance to the accident and emergency department.
It stressed the recent suspension of the CAT service, which is supported by in-house radiography and radiology since last July, was done in the best interests of patient safety.
A HSE spokesman explained that the service had to be suspended in the short term due to the departure of the long-term temporary radiologist at Ennis hospital, who left to take up employment in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, patients from Clare who require CT scans are being accommodated in Limerick with minimal, if any, increase in waiting times.
“The suspension of the Ennis service was done in the best interests of patient safety and will only last until suitable replacements are available. Lessons learned in the past in Clare are that you do not engage in diagnostics of this nature without the required clinical skills being available,” the spokesman said.
“An active recruitment campaign is underway at national and international level, against a background of a shortage of qualified specialists, for a temporary consultant radiologist, pending the permanent appointment of consultant radiologists early November 2009,” he said.