Canadian medical equipment dangerously outdated, say doctors

Up to half of all radiology services in Canada, ranging from ultrasounds to CAT scans, could be shut down unless outdated and dangerous equipment is replaced immediately, says the Canadian Association of Radiologists.

  • More than 50 percent of all diagnostic imaging units in Canada require immediate replacement, according to a new CAR report.

  • The study, which examined departments in more than 500 hospitals and clinics, found 63 percent of general X-ray equipment is outdated.

  • It also found 53 percent of ultrasound equipment is obsolete and just one-third of all equipment has potential for future upgrades.

    The report gives specific examples of dangerous and outdated equipment:

  • A CAT scan machine in a suburban Montreal hospital cannot be turned off, because it is so medically primitive that replacement parts are no longer available, including the on-off switch.

  • An angiogram at Victoria General Hospital - the oldest of its kind in North America - is constantly breaking down in the middle of complicated procedures, putting patients at risk of internal bleeding, stroke and death.

  • In Saskatoon, the same kind of machine operates on "reduced activity" in one hospital - its unreliability means it can be used only for patients facing likely death.

    The cost of replacing the equipment will run well over $1 billion (Canadian), says the physicians' group.

    Source: Tom Arnold, X-Ray Labs dangerously outdated, National Post, October 12, 2000.

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    RSA Note:
    Failure to replace outdated equipment is typical of government-run institutions, including state industries. Privatised state industries in the UK such as British Telecom, British Gas, the various electricity supply and generation companies, and the water industry all made substantially increased investments in new equipment and technology. A common complaint of the newly-privatised industries was the difficulties they had experienced in persuading government to provide adequate capital to allow them to keep pace with technological development. (see Privatisation: A UK success story by Thomas O’Malley, FMF Monograph No 21.) A question that cannot be answered by those who favour political control of the production of goods and services is: How do you decide between the purchase of new fighter planes for the airforce and new hospital equipment for the nation’s state-owned hospitals? Or, for that matter, the upgrading of the nation’s state-owned telephone and railway systems? In the private sector, capital flows to supply consumers most urgent needs – whether it is hospital equipment, health services, water, electricity or telephone services..

    Eustace Davie, Director, FMF.
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