Saturday 22 October 2016

'Dangerous' cancer scan device is put out of use

St James's Hospital
St James's Hospital

Diagnostic equipment at St James's Hospital has been put out of use over fears that it could lead to the death of a patient.

This means St James's - one of the country's main cancer centres - can no longer see patients from other counties for some endoscopy services, according to a memo sent to doctors there last week.

The outdated machine, which is said to break down several times a day, is the main screening device for performing ERCP, a process that detects any diseases in the bile or pancreatic ducts such as cancer, gall stones and infections. It can also remove gallstones.

The HSE has refused to fund a new machine, and the hospital cannot find any more spare parts to maintain it. Doctors have repeatedly warned the HSE of the risk to patients from the machine but have had no response.

Doctors who have struggled with the machine for years were informed late last week that the hospital will make alternative arrangements for its own patients only.

A spokeswoman for the hospital confirmed yesterday that the machine was recently put out of use and a contingency had been put in place.

Nationally, waiting lists for endoscopy have spiralled for most of the year, and although limited funding to provide private appointments for some of the public patients has improved slightly, 18,000 are waiting for tests.


This leads to a risk of delayed diagnosis of a serious condition.

Meanwhile, a report has revealed that an emergency procedure, which may have saved the life of a young woman during surgery at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, was delayed for as long as 15 minutes after the alarm about her condition was raised.

Ms Thawley (34), who was undergoing a simple operation for an ectopic pregnancy, died three hours later.

One of her main blood vessels was accidentally ruptured by an instrument used to create an opening early in the surgery.

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