Public patients in Cork will be unable to access bone density scans in the region for almost two months, The Echo can reveal.
The HSE contract for bone densitometry scans, which can diagnose osteoporosis, was previously held for public patients by a separate company on the grounds of Cork University Hospital (CUH).
Bone densitometry scans had been provided since 1994 by an external provider, ICARE, which have been based in the UCC Clinical Sciences building on the CUH Campus.
However, an email from CUH to medical professionals in Cork revealed that the contract has been awarded to private firm Global Diagnostics for an initial three year term.
Scans in Cork ceased on Tuesday and will not be “fully operational” in Blackrock until June 4.
A Cork GP told The Echo that there are concerns about a possible backlog in scans as a result of the delay.
He added that, while the scan is not necessarily urgent, it seems a strange move by the HSE to outsource what was a public practice to a private company.
“The HSE and Department of Health have said they’re determined to fund and support services in the public for the public yet here they’re engaging a private contractor here.”
Patients accessing public care in CUH, CUMH or the community will now have to access scans through Global Diagnostics whereas before the service was available in the hospital.
An email sent from the finance department at CUH said Global Diagnostics is an “ award-winning managed radiology service provider”.
They currently provide managed radiology services across numerous modalities to 19 HSE sites across Ireland.
The new service will have oversight from both Global Diagnostics and relevant CUH/CUMH stakeholders, according to the finance department.
The new service will be available in Blackrock Hall Primary Care Centre, Skehard Road, Blackrock, Cork but will not be “fully operational” until June 4.
However Global Diagnostics will be accepting referrals with immediate effect, according to a statement sent to The Echo.
“Global Diagnostics is due to take over the DXA scanning service from the 4th of June 2019,” a spokesperson explained.
“We are currently taking referrals and hope to be in touch with patients by mid May.”
The South/South West Hospital Group was contacted for comment.