ENNIS hospital has delivered a first in acute care following the introduction of a new service allowing qualified and registered consultant radiologists to read x-ray images off site.
It has emerged that the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Ennis is the first public acute hospital in the country where the majority of x-rays will be conducted using teleradiology.
X-rays taken in Ennis will be read in Enniskillen, Roscommon, Drogheda, Dublin and Jena in Germany, thanks to a contact with Global Diagnostics, a leading international provider of diagnostic imaging services.
Some x-rays will continue to be read at Ennis hospital by the Health Service Executive (HSE), which will have a consultant radiologist on site every Thursday from the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick.
Global Diagnostics will also provide a consultant radiologist on site one day every two weeks to do some radiology work, which requires the radiologist to be present for barium medical studies.
The new facility will provide a vital service and faster turnaround, which will be of huge benefit to Clare patients, consultants and GPs. Currently, there are no plans to extend the service within the Mid-West.
Prior to commencement of this service, Ennis hospital, like every hospital, experienced variances in its reporting turnaround times. Critical x-rays were read immediately once the radiologist was on site, which was from 9.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Routine x-rays were normally reported in less than three weeks.
However, the new teleradiology service will ensure critical x-rays will be reported on in less than 15 minutes, urgent x-rays will be reported on in less than 90 minutes, while other inpatient x-rays will be reported on between six and 12 hours.
The HSE also expects other emergency x-rays will be reported on in less than 24 hours, while all GP and non-urgent Outpatients Department (OPD) requests will be reported on in less than 48 hours. This reporting will be done from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week.
This service has been used to clear backlogs in other hospitals.
The last locum radiologist employed by the HSE left Ennis hospital on Friday, April 8 last and the authority’s last two recruitment drives failed to secure a consultant. Parallel to this, the teleradiology solution was investigated by the HSE.
Asked about the estimated cost of providing this service, the HSE stated such information is “commercially sensitive” but added it is comparable to the costs associated with having a locum radiologist.
The Clare Champion understands it costs in the region of €200,000 for the HSE to employ a locum consultant radiologist for a year.
Deputy Joe Carey has welcomed the provision of the new teleradiology service at Ennis hospital. He noted the hospital had experienced problems in the past in trying to recruit a permanent radiologist.
Deputy Carey said the new service should benefit Clare patients once all the necessary resources are provided by the HSE to ensure a smooth running of the new facility.
“If new technology can be used to read x-rays quicker by experts, then this should be encouraged. Ennis hospital has a vital role to play in the delivery of acute hospital care in the Mid-West and this has to be supported and developed with the provision of new facilities,” he said.