Hope for desperate patients

National Hospital to get new CT scanner
By Kumudini Hettiarachchi

There is hope for hundreds of patients who were on a thin line between life and death, due to some of the vital machinery at the premier National Hospital in Colombo either malfunctioning or being broken.
A brand-new CT scanner costing around Rs. 40-50 million is on the way and will be installed in a few weeks and the DSA (Digital Subtraction Angiography) machine will be repaired soon with the burnt X-ray tube costing about Rs. 4 million being replaced. The Biomedical Engineering Service of the Health Ministry is attending to these matters, said NHSL Director Dr. Hector Weerasinghe when contacted by The Sunday Times.

“One of the two malfunctioning CT scanners has also been repaired,” he added. At a time when the country is facing not only a war situation but also terrorist attacks like at Akuressa, and critically-injured patients from such sites as well as accident cases are rushed to NHSL, vital machinery and equipment should be in top form. But both CT (Computerized Tomography) scan machines and the DSA machine have been out of order for sometime, it is learnt.

All patients needing CT scans had to be sent by ambulance to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children accompanied by medical staff while patients needing the DSA machine have been “put on hold” since December last year. Even now, only with one CT scan functioning, some of the patients are still sent to LRH, The Sunday Times understands.

The calls to The Sunday Times about the non-repair of these vital machines were numerous. “Just come to the Accident Service and watch ambulances and staff plying patients from the National Hospital to the LRH,” suggested a desperate relative of one critically-injured patient.

The costs and manpower wasted must be enormous, let alone the patients being endangered, another relative added, explaining the plight of those admitted to the NHSL with serious head injuries.

“I have called the hospital many times and have come a few times since December,” said a youth with a large soft bump on his head. Without interventional treatment using the DSA machine, he faces the danger of the bump rupturing and leaving him in danger.

The Sunday Times learns that the Division of Interventional Radiology where the DSA machine is located is also congested with no recovery room for patients and proper space even for medical officers.
The CT scan machine uses X-ray equipment and a computer to create cross-sectional images which can be reconstructed into three-dimensional images (scans) of bones, soft tissue and very importantly the brain.

Meanwhile, the DSA is also an advanced X-ray machine and is used to image mainly the blood vessels in the brain and other parts of the body. It assists in the diagnosis of arterial disease, aneurysms in the brain and when taking liver biopsies. This machine is used as an intervention or treatment in angioplasty (stretching of a blood vessel to improve the blood flow), stent insertion (once again to improve blood flow) and embolization of vascular malformations and coiling of cerebral aneurysms to stop bleeding into the brain.

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