Officials ‘keen’ to secure MRI scanner at hospital

Officials ‘keen’ to secure MRI scanner at hospital

4 September 2019

HEALTH officials say they are “mad keen” to secure a new MRI scanner for the Downe Hospital as part of an investment which could be in the region of £4m.

The news was confirmed at Monday night’s meeting of the Down Community Health Committee in Downpatrick which was addressed by the South Eastern Trust’s acting chief executive, Seamus McGoran.

Mr McGoran confirmed that the provision of the MRI scanner is one of the organisation’s capital priorities and believes there is a strong case to provide one in Downpatrick. There are currently two similar scanners based at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.

“We would like a third scanner at the Downe and the numbers stack up for us,” he told campaigners. ”More and more clinicians are seeking an MRI scan for patients because it provides a much clearer picture. 

“We also believe that £3m or £4m for a new scanner is not a lot of money, but would require an extension being built at the hospital to accommodate it.”

Mr McGoran explained that if the new scanner is supported by the Health and Social Care Board from a revenue perspective — to essentially fund the staff who will provide the service — and capital funding is provided to buy the equipment and house it in a dedicated new area that would have to be constructed at the hospital, it can be delivered.

“The Board has to say that it is prepared to support the revenue part of the proposal before it goes to the Department of Health which already has our business case,” he continued.

“Our staff are very keen and continue to have the conversations on this particular issue and I think the case for the new scanner speaks for itself, the numbers certainly do. The two scanners we currently have are not enough to cope with demand and we have had to outsource this service as a lot of other health trusts are doing.”

Mr McGoran said there was a strong case for a new MRI scanner at the Downe and was optimistic there will be support for the proposal. However, he was not in a position to say when that will be.

Praising hospital campaigners on Monday night, the senior health chief said they have always had a loud voice, been understood and influential in what the South Eastern Trust had been doing.

“The Downe is not just about providing services to the community. It is a hugely important part of the local economy in the Downpatrick area. Jobs are important as are new services and the expansion of existing services,” he said.

Mr McGoran described the Downe as a “thriving hospital” and revealed that the medical education centre on the ground floor had been relocated upstairs in order to refurbish outpatient accommodation to allow more ophthalmology patients from the North Down and Belfast areas to be treated in Downpatrick.

He continued: “There is lots more we can do but at the minute there is no room at the inn. If we get the go-ahead for the new MRI scanner, we will have to build an extension to put it in.

“We have invested £3.5m in our multi-disciplinary team to do more in the community, with our other priorities a new MRI scanner, increased outpatient and day-case capacity, diagnostic assessment and treatment. 

“Our new cataract service is critically important and we have incredible staff delivering this, with the Downe one of three regional centres delivering this day procedure.”

Mr McGoran added: “We are currently working towards quadrupling the service we previously provided in Downpatrick which means recruiting more nurses and more doctors travelling to perform procedures.”