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David Stanton, Fine Gael TD for Cork East continues to be concerned about the slow progress being made with the PET/CT Scanner unit at Cork University Hospital (CUH). The PET/CT scanner unit, constructed in 2009, for a cost of €6.85 million, is still not operational.

“I am very concerned that the PET/CT Scanner is still not up and running which is why I raised the matter in the Dail last night. The decision to acquire the scanner was made in 2008 and planning for the new unit was granted in 2008. Construction was completed almost two years ago, yet personnel have still not been appointed to staff the unit”, said Deputy Stanton.

“I believe that an interim principal physicist has been appointed while recruitment continues for a permanent position. I have been advised that while sanction has been granted to recruit additional specialist staff recruitment has not yet begun. I understand that, in addition to the Principal Physicist, before the unit can become operational it will need one Clinical Specialist Radiographer and two Senior Radiographers.

“I hope that posts will be advertised and filled without delay. Until this happens, thousands of patients from Cork and Kerry, many of whom are seriously ill, will continue to be forced to travel to Dublin for PET/CT scans. Not only is this extremely inconvenient for patients, it is incurs a needless cost on the HSE South (up to €1 million by September 2010) when a brand new unit is lying idle in CUH.

“During my debate with Minister for Equality, Kathleen Lynch TD, she advised that she would make in-depth enquiries into what exactly is causing the hold up with the PET/CT scanner in CUH. A similar unit was purchased and constructed in St James’ hospital in Dublin at the same time as the CUH unit and that scanner has been operational for quite some time. People and Cork and Kerry should no longer be deprived of such a vital service”, concluded Deputy Stanton.


Note to Editors: Transcript of adjournment debate follows:

Adjournment Debate– CUH PET Scanner
9.10 pm, Wednesday, 6th July 2011

Deputy David Stanton: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this issue this evening and the Minister of State for her attendance. I am sure the Minister of State has a great awareness of and a deep interest in, this issue as well. At the outset, I will outline the historical background. In 2006, the HSE decided to procure a PET-CT scanner for Cork University Hospital, CUH. In 2008, planning permission was granted for a €6.85 million diagnostic and treatment facility. Construction began in 2009 and in July of that year, it was advised that the PET scanners in CUH and St. James’s Hospital were near completion. As the scanner in St. James’s Hospital has been in operation for some time, what is the delay in the CUH? Why is its scanner not up and running?

I have been raising this issue for quite some time and, in November 2010, the HSE advised that a total of 5,551 PET scans were carried out in the eight months from January to August 2010. The Minister of State might indicate at some point how many scans were carried out altogether in 2010 and to date in 2011, how many people in the HSE south region are awaiting PET scans and how long must they wait before being scanned because they must travel to Dublin for them. By September 2010, I understand that more than €1 million had been spent by HSE south on PET scans in Dublin, which sounds like a terrible waste when a €6.85 million facility lies idle in Cork.

During an Adjournment debate in November 2010, I was informed that funding had been made available for a consultant radiologist with a special interest in PET-CT and that this post was to be considered by the HSE’s consultant appointments advisory committee at its November meeting. I was further informed that the recruitment process for a number of clinical support staff would commence in January 2011. As it was intended to proceed with the PET-CT service at CUH early in 2011, I thought everything was fine. On 14 February, I was informed that a letter of approval for the post of consultant radiologist with a special interest in PET-CT was received from the consultant and so on and that sanction also had been received to recruit a principal physicist.

On 22 June, or six years after the original decision, I was advised that the CUH was now working on the final phase of the commencement of the PET-CT service and that the HSE national recruitment office was arranging to advertise for the post of clinical specialist radiographer. I also was advised that it was arranging to advertise for two senior radiographer posts and that because it was planned to have the service in operation by the end of the fourth quarter of 2011, until then patients would be obliged to continue to travel to Dublin for scans. Why is it taking so long to get this service up and running? It is an awful shame that this service, costing €6.85 million, is lying idle while in the meantime people, many of whom are quite ill, must travel to Dublin at great cost and inconvenience.

I ask the Minister of State to find out and then inform Members what is the reason for the delay, what has been holding up the service and the date on which it will be in operation? Will this be done by the end of the year? I note the project’s history and suggest that if this continues for much longer, the scanner will go the way of the electronic voting machines as the technology will be out of date. This makes no sense and I hope the Minister of State has some good news.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: It probably is unusual for Ministers to not read out their scripts in response to Adjournment matters but having heard what the Deputy had to say, were I to so do I would be embarrassed, which he would not like. I believe the reply in the script is precisely the same as that which the Deputy has been getting all through the years. Yes, a principal physicist now has been hired but that is about it. The other posts as listed are being advertised for. I will not read out the response I have to hand but having heard the Deputy’s contribution, I will make further and more in-depth inquiries. I will find out what is the delay, whether the posts have been advertised and if so, whether there has been a response and will then revert to the Deputy.

Deputy David Stanton: I thank the Minister of State