More than 4,600 patients are on a waiting list for a DXA bone density scan at Merlin Park Hospital, it was revealed this week. Some 3,473 of these are GP patients, 1,158 are outpatients while four are inpatients.
The issue was raised by Headford Fianna Fail county councillor Mary Hoade at a meeting of the HSE West's regional health forum at Merlin Park Hospital.
She asked if the DXA scanner at the hospital was in use on a fulltime basis and if such machines can be operated by specially trained nurses. She also wondered about the waiting list for the service. She said she believed that suitably qualified nurses can use these scanners and certain GPs can read the results and she asked if this information was correct.
Ann Cosgrove, the chief operating officer of the Saolta University Health Care Group, outlined that the exisiting DXA service is continuing throughout the summer and the hospital plans to increase it from one morning a week to two mornings in the short term. She explained the machine was operated by a radiographer.
She outlined that the service had a difficulty recruiting and retaining radiographers and it experienced a "glut" of resignations over the past six months.
"We are continuing our efforts to fill the vacant radiographer posts across the hospital, including a dedicated post for this service."
She went on to say that specially trained nurses can operate DXA scanners and are doing so in GP practices and other units in Galway. Scans at Galway University Hospitals (UHG and Merlin Park ) are interpreted by a consultant rheumatologist.
Cllr Hoade wondered if the service had ever been operated more than one morning a week. Ms Cosgrove said this had not happened in the last few years. It has been a limited service since then, however Saolta was "actively trying to recruit" radiographers for the last few years. She added that the option of hiring specialist nurses to operate the DXA scanner is being explored.