Multi-million cancer scanner to remain idle until year end

A multi-million euro cancer scanner, mothballed since 2009, is unlikely to be brought online until at least the year end due to continuing staffing delays.

A private tender document for the Cork University Hospital equipment was published at the start of this year in an attempt to fill four key posts. The tender to appoint a clinical specialist radiographer, two senior radiographers and a principal physicist had a deadline of Mar 21 for applications.

However, it is understood the jobs’ tender process will not be made by the HSE until August, meaning the four positions are almost certain not to be filled until the final quarter of this year.

This follows three years of repeated problems in making the vital PET (Positron Emission Tomography) CT scanner — which allows doctors to examine 3D images of tumours — available to cancer patients who are otherwise facing travelling to Dublin.

The hi-tech tool cost €3.8m when it was bought at the start of 2009, following the overall €6.85m cost for developing the treatment and diagnostic facility where it is built.

However, despite numerous promises by previous and current governments to bring the public service online, none of the positions have been filled.

Due to the delays, hundreds of cancer patients have to chose between going private to receive the care they need or travelling to Dublin for treatment.

The only other scanner available in the public system is based in St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

In Nov 2010, CUH chief executive Tony McNamara was given special authorisation by the HSE to breach the recruitment embargo to fill the positions needed to run the scanner.

However, despite then junior minister John Moloney saying the posts would be filled by Mar 2011, they were not advertised and remain unfilled — a position Kathleen Lynch, minister for disability and mental health, told the Dáil last July she was “embarrassed” to admit.


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