Missing in action: The case of the non-functional MRI machine

The machine at Holy Family Hospital hasn’t been working for over two years now.


Mudassir Raja August 26, 2011

RAWALPINDI:


The physicians and other staff members are not the only essential elements missing from public sector hospitals. There have been instances of important documents being stolen. In other instances expensive machines have been non-functional for years, as is the case with the Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) machine at the Holy Family Hospital (HFH) in Rawalpindi.


The machine stopped working some two years ago. The huge sum required to make it functional cannot be made available currently, according to hospital sources, whereas patients who visit the state-run hospital for cheaper treatment are asked to go to private laboratories for MRI scans.

MRI scans are usually required before neurosurgery and abdominal surgery.

The machine for the tests was installed in the public hospital by Punjab government in 2001; the machine performed 600 tests before breaking down on July 9, 2009, according to official documents.

The MRI facility at Holy Family was commonly recommended by doctors to patients with lesser financial ability. Patients from District Headquarter Hospital and Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Hospital were also referred to HFH for MRI scans.

However, they now have to go to private laboratories where they are
charged up to three times as much as HFH (Rs6,000-8,000 against Rs2,500 at Holy Family).

The MRI machine’s order was placed in 1999. The machine was purchased from a German firm in 2001 for $1.4 million. It took another Rs8.4 million and four years to make the machine functional in 2005.

Since 2005, the machine developed a number of faults before completely breaking down in 2009.

Out of total 600 MRI tests performed by the machine, 250 cases were paid for while the remaining tests were performed free of charge.

An official said their demand for the MRI machine repair was approved by provincial health secretary and is lying with the office of Punjab chief minister.

The official added that Rs250 million are required to make the machine fully functional.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2011.

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