Radiological machines failing during clinical procedures
It has been reported by Paul Mulholland in The Medical Independent that a HSE internal document, Risk Status on Medical Equipment August 2019, has highlighted the problem of outdated radiological machines ‘failing’ during clinical procedures.
Over a two-year period, 86% of the most unreliable radiological devices are older than 10 years and 54% of these devices have had more than 10 failure events per year during a clinical procedure. These devices include critical radiology systems, such as interventional fluoroscopy, CT or MRI that are required during medical emergencies.
Since the HSE’s national equipment replacement programme was established in 2012, total investment has been €164 million. This equates to a yearly average of €33 million. As a result of shortfalls in the investment of equipment over a number of years, the value of the backlog of ageing medical equipment greater than 10 years has risen to €392 million.
Concerns were reported by the HSE’s corporate estates regarding the backlog of aged and at risk critical equipment as far back as 2016. The HSE’s new capital plan states that annual investment in equipment will be “significantly” increased over the coming years. However, in the interim it is extremely concerning for patients in an emergency situation that there may be a delayed diagnosis owing to the fact that outdated radiological devices are failing during clinical diagnostic procedures. In the most serious situations this could potentially result in a patient’s death for example if radiology investigations could not be carried out before emergency surgery.
Furthermore if there is some injury caused to a patient due to a defective medical device that is greater than 10 years old, the provisions of the Liability for Defective Products Act 1991 which provides for strict liability for damages will not apply and a patient would have to rely on ordinary principles of negligence against a manufacturer of the medical device and the HSE for failing to maintain and replace medical equipment.
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