A major glitch in the computer system processing pathology test results in hospitals in Cork and Kerry is causing serious delays in diagnostic services, with patients left waiting and staff struggling to do the work manually.
The problem arose last weekend, and some patients attending Cork University Hospital who are awaiting test results described the situation as "chaotic".
One man, who did not wish to be identified, said a relative with cancer had treatment held up as they waited for blood test results. Another patient said diabetics attending an outpatient clinic were told to go home and return another day.
The HSE confirmed that problems arose last Saturday in the Laboratory Information Management System at CUH and that its ICT department was "working with the suppliers of the system to correct these technical issues as quickly as possible".
It is a centralised IT system which supports services at CUH, Kerry General, Mallow General, and Bantry General, as well as the Mercy Hospital’s blood transfusion lab.
GPs have already been notified by the HSE and asked not to send samples for testing to the hospitals. Urgent cases are being "prioritised", the HSE said. However, it added that "some delays are being experienced for the results of samples classed as routine or non-urgent due to the system reverting to a manual process until the IT issue is resolved".
The HSE said the lab service had implemented contingency arrangements "in order to continue to provide the required essential diagnostic services to the hospital departments, GPs and other community services", all of whom have been informed of the technical issues. The lab service is working extended hours at this time.
A HSE spokeswoman said the technical issues did not mean pathology tests were not being carried out, but that results had to be written up manually. She said they were "working around the clock" to resolve the problem.
She said a number of the lab IT systems are being restored on a phased basis and it is hoped to be fully restored in the coming days.