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A PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanner worth €3.8 million and purchased in 2009 by Cork University Hospital (CUH) will soon be operational Cork East Fine Gael TD, David Stanton has discovered. Deputy Stanton was given this information during a special Dail debate he secured on the matter this evening.

“It is quite unbelievable that this brand new PET scanner, crucial to for the detection of cancer, has lain idle for so long. I am delighted that the HSE finally approved funding for CUH to employ a consultant radiologist and other support staff so the machine can be used. This PET scanner is just one of the two public PET scanners in the country; the other scanner is located in St James’ Hospital in Dublin.

“In 2009, CUH completed the construction of a brand new €6.85 million treatment and diagnostic facility where the PET scanner is located. Applications were made to the HSE National Hospitals Office at the time for staff to man the unit. However, due to the public service recruitment moratorium, recruitment of staff for this vitally important service was put on hold. I have been informed that a consultant radiologist has been approved and that recruitment for the necessary support staff will commence in January 2011.

“Currently there are just 4 PET scanners in operation in the state, three in Dublin: the public scanner in St James’, three private PET scanners (one each in the Mater Private, Blackrock Clinic and Whitfield clinic). In 2008, 2009 and in the first 8 months of 2010 the HSE South spent more than €1 million sending people to Dublin for scans. Presumably this cost has increased since September. While the HSE covers costs of the scans, patients must meet their own transport costs. In addition to the personal expense, this trip must be very stressful for people many of whom are very ill possibly with cancer.

“I am also concerned at the low number of people from the HSE South receiving PET scans in Cork. Out of the total figures I obtained relating to the number of PET scanners in 32 months, just 605 people from the HSE South received scans out of the total of 12,597 scans completed. This seems very small considering the population of the HSE South is close to 1.2 million.

“I hope that recruitment and funding arrangements for this vital service in Cork are concluded without delay. I would not like to think that people in Cork, Kerry and other counties in the HSE South area are being denied access to PET scans or face long waiting lists as there is no public scanning facility available to them.