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'There would be a step back in care': Rotunda doctors forced to fundraise for vital ultrasound machine

A senior doctor at the hospital said they repeatedly rely on donations to fund essential equipment.

Image: Shutterstock/Bignai

DOCTORS AND NURSES at the Rotunda hospital in Dublin have set up a fundraising page to fund an ultrasound machine needed to treat sick and premature babies. 

The page was set up two weeks ago in a bid to raise more than €70,000 for a new Echocardiography Machine – or heart ultrasound machine – as doctors believe the current machine will be out of action within months. 

Some €25,000 of the €76,500 goal set for the new equipment has been raised so far. 

Afif El-Khuffash, consultant neonatologist at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for seven years, said doctors can not rely on images produced by the machine which affects how they treat and diagnosis babies in the unit. 

“The current machine we are using was purchased in 2008 and that was all from donations,” he said. 

“So this isn’t the first time we have fundraised for vital equipment, not only for the neonatal care unit but for the rest of the hospital. 

“We have to rely on philanthropy to raise the funds and [this is] by no means the first nor the last fundraising drive we will have to run.”

The machine, which takes ultrasound images of a heart and is used to identify infections and treat conditions in sick newborn babies, has been producing blurred images. 

Doctors, as a result, can’t stand over the images as a tool for diagnosis and treatment, El-Khuffash said, adding that if a new machine is not purchased within the next six months, sick babies will have to be transferred to other hospitals for scans which would bring further risks. 

The Rotunda currently carries out around 750 scans a year with this machine. 

“I think we have about four to six months left before we really have to replace the machine,” El-Khuffash said. 

“What would happen is there would be a step back in the care we can provide to our most vulnerable patients. A lot of patients, some of them critically unwell will need to be transferred to Crumlin to receive those scans and don’t like moving babies across the city to get diagnostic studies.”

He said the Rotunda needs about €1.6 million in 2020 to replace and upgrade equipment but said in recent years, the hospital has received as little as €300,000 in funding. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that the HSE is responsible for delivering and managing healthcare infrastructure but the Department “has been advised by the HSE that it is not aware of an application [for funding] for this project”. 

In a statement, the Rotunda said:

“The Rotunda Hospital Foundation is currently engaged in a major fundraising drive to fund an essential piece of equipment an Echocardiography machine in the Neonatal Intensive care unit of the Rotunda.

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“The current echocardiography machine is reaching end of life and was also funded via fundraising and the generosity of the public. Medical Equipment replacement is a key priority for the Rotunda Hospital to ensure that patients receive a safe and quality service. The Rotunda Foundation fundraises actively and sources funds and donations in order to support the Hospital in meeting its many and varied essential medical equipping needs.

“There is limited exchequer funds available and many demands for new and replacement equipment in hospitals, which means that even if the current machine was decommissioned, there is no guarantee that there will be exchequer funds for a replacement machine. We work collaboratively and closely with colleagues in the HSE to ensure that medical equipment needs are prioritised and funds sourced as required.”

This echocardiography machine is an essential piece equipment for an intensive care unit and is used every day to monitor the tiny hearts of premature patients, so it is critical to be able to maintain the continuity of safe care for these babies and their families.
The Rotunda Hospital Foundation is extremely grateful for the support from the public and their generous donations so far. It is heartening, especially during the Christmas season, to see the outpouring of warmth and respect for our hard-working NICU team who are providing the best care to our most vulnerable patients.

El-Khuffash said he was grateful for the generosity of members of the public who have already fundraised a third of the required amount. Others have also donated in person at the hospital on Parnell Square in Dublin city centre. 

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