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TOP NEWS | Sunday, 02 September 2007

X-ray machines unfit for Mater Dei’s children and emergency department

Karl Schembri 

The X-ray machine that is meant to be used on children at the new Mater Dei Hospital has been found to be unsuitable for infants given that it does not operate on low radiation doses supposed for young patients, MaltaToday can reveal.
Hospital sources say the machine, which was meant to cater for children and which should have been ordered with specifications to make X-rays safer and quicker for children, turned out to be normal X-ray equipment used on adults.
Installed in what is referred to as the “paediatric room”, the machine is said to be unfit for its intended users as children would need equipment that emanates less radiation through low dose filters.
Instead, the equipment installed is known as a fluoroscopy machine, which allows specialists to study the stomach, intestines and veins but which is not used for normal X-rays, which are in much greater demand.
Sources said there are similar problems at the casualty department, where two X-ray machines were installed but are also unsuitable for generic X-rays required by that unit.
Attempts to contact the hospital authorities and the spokesman for the Mater Dei Hospital over the weekend proved futile.
The hospital administration changed one of the machines to a more suitable one in the last weeks, running into an estimated Lm500,000 overrun, although the other one remains installed given a lack of finances to replace both of them.
Hospital staff expressed their concern at the fact that with only one functional machine at the emergency department, there will be serious delays when it would need servicing or a part replacement.
“This would mean that patients would have to be sent to other sections of the hospital to have their X-rays, resulting in delays in the commencement of treatment and discomfort to patients and relatives,” hospital sources said.
“Everyone at the casualty department is asking on what criteria were the two X-ray machines bought, as it is clear that no expert opinion in radiology must have been sought.
“These machines are never used in casualty as they hinder the workflow and cannot be used to carry out several X-rays.”
Earlier last month, MaltaToday revealed that the radiology department had to close down its new unit and stop taking X-rays as the equipment there still lacked safety certification from the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA).
In fact, an OHSA officer issued a stop order until the authority gives its green light following confirmation that the facilities there follow international standards protecting staff and patients.

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