The fact that there is only one public MRI in the entire HSE West is among several reasons for delays in processing diagnostic referrals in the region.
“There are a variety of differing reasons across the HSE West for delays in GP and consultant referrals for MRI and ultrasounds,” the Executive told its health forum, listing this among 10 reasons.
Other excuses proffered included radiology equipment malfunctions and legacy waiting lists where there were more limited services in the past.
Apart from increased demand for these valuable and effective diagnostics, other reasons listed were: inadequate numbers of radiologists and appropriately-trained radiographers, the complexity and time-consuming nature of imaging, and the challenge of providing an increased range of radiological modalities — both diagnostic and interventional — at a high quality and at the required levels.
The focus on ensuring emergency and urgent tests, particularly for inpatients, means that within the existing capacity, GP referrals could wait beyond the targets it prefers, the HSE West also stated.
However, it accepted there were improvements to be made in the access of MRI and ultrasound tests, stating that there were a variety of measures already being undertaken across the West to improve performance.
These include introducing maximum waiting time criteria for urgent tests and validation of waiting lists based on clinical indications, extending operation hours of MRI and ultrasound and the replacement of older equipment, which had been scheduled, said the Executive, adding that it would co-operate with the roll-out of the Radiological Clinical Care Programme.
The HSE West has also said that it would upskill radiographers and has developed business cases for the recruitment of additional consultant radiologists.