Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Health
Health Services Provision
I sincerely regret that children can experience a long waiting time for MRI services, and I am conscious of the burden that this places on them and their families.
Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) has advised my Department that during the initial phases of COVID-19, all face to face hospital outpatient reviews and most of the planned diagnostic tests, including MRI, were deferred in response to the pandemic. CHI at Crumlin have recommenced the majority of outpatient and diagnostic services, albeit at reduced numbers, due to public health guidelines on social distancing
In relation to the provision of MRI services, the demand for specialist imaging has increased over recent years due to increased activity and acuity in CHI, as well as an increasing trend to utilise imaging in diagnosis and treatment. CHI have advised that, uniquely to Paediatrics, younger children and children up to 18 years old with complex needs may be unable to remain still in an MRI for the lengthy periods required to complete the scan, resulting in the requirement for a General Anaesthetic (GA) to be delivered by a Paediatric Anaesthesiologist. This limits the ability for these scans to be performed outside of CHI hospitals.
CHI have confirmed to my Department that each request for an MRI scan is carefully examined by Consultant Radiologists who must prioritise, based on clinical urgency, each case in terms of access to the scanner.
Patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.
The HSE continues to optimise productivity through alternative work practices such the use of alternative settings including private hospitals, community facilities and alternative outpatient settings.