Antiquated equipment ‘a pressing issue’ in hospitals

Sligo Regional Hospital. Pic: James Connolly/GreenGraph

Many acute hospitals are using antiquated equipment manufacturers no longer stand over, it has emerged.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said the need to replace obsolete and faulty equipment had become a “pressing issue” in most hospitals.

“We have equipment in hospitals that the manufacturers will not stand over — the guarantee no longer applies,” said IHCA secretary general Martin Varley.

The IHCA pre-budget submission, published yesterday, points out Sligo Regional Hospital has to use parts from a decommissioned unit imported from Japan to repair ageing radiology equipment.

“We are actually using extremely old obsolete equipment which is not good,” said Mr Varley. He said the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin was experiencing a major problem in replacing obsolete equipment.

The maternity hospital got around €150,000 to replace equipment last year, but it was less than 25% of what was really needed.

Mr Varley said a list of hospitals using obsolete equipment would run to several pages.

ICHA president Dr Tom Ryan, a consultant anaesthetist at St James’s Hospital in Dublin, said the hospital had a very active endoscopy unit, but there were not enough endoscopes.

“If you do not have enough endoscopes, you have to wait for the endoscopes to get cleaned between patients and so, consequently, the efficiency of your unit gradually drops,” said Dr Ryan.

“This is the case in St James’s where the throughput from the endoscopy unit is compromised by the number of scopes available.”

He said the availability of ultrasound machines at the hospital was also a problem — they were continuously in use and had become degraded and faulty.

“So you end up sharing out machines, and it just slows everything down, and it makes for inefficient care. This runs the whole way through the system,” he said.

Dr Ryan said there was a €400bn capital budget shortfall over eight years.

“You can’t keep running a hospital system where productivity goes up by two to three percent a year and not replace your equipment.”

IHCA vice-president Dr Oisín O’Connell, a consultant respiratory physician at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, said transplant and cancer patients were competing for bed access in the hospital.

“The Mater Hospital is phenomenally well-run but it is not being supported at national level,” he said.

“You are always fighting for your patient to get into hospital and that is also resulting in some patients getting sent down to the emergency department when all they need is a bed in the ward.”

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