HSE chaos over Nenagh scanner

Election stunt results in the purchase of expensive equipment, which now cannot be used because of recruitment ban and mismanagement


A €2.1 million life-saving CT scanner continues to be unused in a Tipperary hospital even though the HSE approved the appointment of staff to operate it over a year ago.
The scanner was purchased for Nenagh General Hospital in Co Tipperary, two days before last year's election.
 Internal hospital memos, obtained by North Tipperary Labour Senator, Alan Kelly, under the Freedom of Information Act show that staff were approved to run the machine only a month after it was bought.

However a series of bureaucratic delays, including a bizarre allocation of staff to the wrong hospital, meant that a recruitment embargo was in place before anybody could be hired to run the machine.

HSE headquarters allocated 6.5 staffing units to run the Nenagh Scanner in June of last year.

However when the HSE's staff monitoring body, the National Employment Monitoring Unit (NEMU) approved the appointment of staff for the Nenagh hospital, they mistakenly nominated the hospital in Ennis, which never had a CT scanner.

Nenagh Hospital manger, Frank Keane, in a letter dated 26 November last, wrote: “I absolutely cannot accept that an error was made.” He said he had had enough contact with NEMU and national office that there could be no question of confusion.”

Ennis Hospital were given 6.5 staff, the minimum required to run a scanner, but Nenagh General were allocated only 5.5 staff with a final consultant waiting to be approved by a separate health body – Comhairle.

A HSE recruitment ban just weeks later meant that the consultant was never hired and the scanner remains idle in Nenagh General Hospital while patients are referred from Nenagh to other hospitals.

The whole episode “shows how ridiculously and insanely the HSE is actually run,” said Labour's Senator Alan Kelly adding that the entire process was “filled with confusion”.

The newly-obtained documents show that this situation was predicted by hospital staff as early as July of 2006 and no less than six warnings were put to HSE management before they bought the machine.

In November of 2006, 21 months ago, a local radiologist wrote to HSE regional management to say: “I would strongly advise that CT not be ordered from supplier until formal approval has been given for appropriate staff resources,”

The Hospital Manager, Frank Keane, also wrote to his bosses three months later to warn them that: “We'll shortly have the machine and no one to do scans for or report on scans.”

He gave three further warnings before the machine was purchased and in 30 April 2007 he wrote he was “batting off political enquiries regarding staffing” and he would “at least like to be in a position to say we are recruiting”.

However the scanner continues to lie idle and the staff to run the machine will now have to come from the hospital's own budget, which means cutting back on other service areas for Nenagh General.

 A HSE statement on the issue stated that there is “no confusion” over the matter of the Nenagh Scanner now.

 They predicted the scanner would be up and running by the end of this year “subject to the co-operation of interests concerned,” according to a spokesperson.