The chief executive of one of the country’s biggest hospitals — Cork University Hospital — has confirmed it will be "a couple of months" before new equipment is installed to replace its laboratory IT system server which crashed on five occasions this year.
Speaking at the HSE South Health Forum yesterday, Tony McNamara said a six-person project team was working on putting in place a new €600,000 server which should “obviate future breakdowns”. He said there were also contingency plans in the event of further failures.
Catastrophic failure of the laboratory information management system (LIMS) during the year forced doctors to inform some patients that they could not stand over certain test results and also forced the hospital to put the State Claims Agency on notice that it could face liabilities.
Mr McNamara described the situation — which heightened the risk of misdiagnosis and inappropriate patient treatment — as “very serious”. The LIMS at CUH serves other hospitals in the region, including Kerry General, Mallow Hospital, Bantry Hospital and the blood transfusion laboratory at Mercy University Hospital (MUH), as well as the South Infirmary Victoria Hospital.
Last month, the Irish Examiner reported that ongoing problems with a corrupt database — as recorded in the hospital’s risk register in 2012, 2013 and 2014 — increased the likelihood of errors in the pathology department. The risk register, a management tool to identify and manage risk, also noted that mislabelled blood and tissue samples were regularly sent to the lab for analysis, although this problem originated at the point where samples were taken and not in the lab itself.
Mr McNamara moved to reassure health forum members that the CUH lab service operated to the highest standards after Fianna Fáil Cllr and GP, Dr John Sheehan, asked if it met best practice in quality control.
Mr McNamara said the lab service underwent a stringent accreditation process in October and inspectors recommended full accreditation. “This represents outstanding achievement for the laboratories and is an indication of the professionalism and resilience of the CUH laboratory staff and an acknowledgement of the excellent work done over many years and through many accreditation processes,” Mr McNamara said.
By way of illustrating the CUH lab workload, Mr McNamara pointed out that its six fully-accredited multidisciplinary diagnostic departments with 220 staff cater for a throughput of 10 million tests per annum. The lab provides services for 24 different community hospitals and clinics and provides for 80% of GP requirements in the HSE South West catchment area.
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