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Kids’ hospital in funds crusade to buy £2m scanner

By Lisa Smyth

A campaign to raise £2m to pay for a scanner that will dramatically improve treatment for seriously ill children from across Northern Ireland has been launched.

The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children is the only children’s hospital in the UK that does not have an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner.

This means seriously ill children being treated at the hospital must be transferred to other hospitals, sometimes outside Northern Ireland, for a scan — while others undergo alternative types of investigation that can be invasive or involve radiation.

Four leading local children’s charities, Northern Ireland Children’s Cancer Fund, Carrickmannon MRI Scanner Appeal, Children’s Heartbeat Trust and Helping Hand, have joined forces to raise the money needed to pay for the scanner.

Dr Louise Sweeney, consultant paediatric radiographer at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, said: “There are scanners in the main Royal hospital which we have access to but this not ideal.

“When we use these we have to transport the patient in an ambulance with a team of doctors, nurses and ambulance technicians to the Royal. It is quite an event. This a weekly occurrence and not the best use of resources.”

While it had been expected state-of-the-art scanning facilities would be provided in the planned Children’s Hospital at the Royal, it could be up to 10 years before this is built.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has said there are funding issues in relation to the construction of both the women’s and children’s hospitals.

“An MRI scanner is not a luxury, it is an essential method of imaging and is an excellent diagnostic tool,” said Dr Sweeney.

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