Important and expensive high tech equipment that a public hospital bought 8 YEARS ago still not in use
TAXPAYERS are forking out $1 million a year to treat patients privately while medical equipment worth $3 million sits idle in a public hospital. Health Minister Paul Lucas yesterday admitted cancer sufferers were waiting for treatment after delays in commissioning a hyperbaric chamber at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. The facility, dubbed ''one of the world's biggest and best'', was built for $2.8 million in 2001 and there were promises it would be operating 18 months ago. But the pressure chamber continues to sit idle while patients use a similar unit at the nearby Wesley Private Hospital.
Hyperbaric chambers - like decompression chambers used to treat divers with the bends - are used to treat people with chronic illness, particularly when they have wounds that are difficult to heal.
The revelations came as Mr Lucas promised to release radiation therapy waiting lists for the first time after years of secrecy from Queensland Health. Mr Lucas yesterday insisted using the Wesley chamber was more economical than running the RBWH facility at half capacity, but he would not release all the figures to back it up. Queensland Health figures show the RBWH chamber would cost $1.5 million a year to perform 6600 treatments. Taxpayers spent $877,513 on treatments at the Wesley during 2007-08 and $1.2 million the previous year.
Mr Lucas defended the chamber's lack of use, saying it was built as part of good future planning and would be commissioned within a year. But he refused to reveal how many patients were waiting to be treated.
However, Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle, who questioned Mr Lucas during the Budget Estimates hearings, said the lack of use was ridiculous. ''Why isn't operating?'' Mr McArdle demanded. ''It is simply negligent not to have this operating right now. It should have been commissioned when the thing was put in. ``Why aren't we using it so that people can have a better life and a better quality life?''
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