Medical equipment management in NSW public hospitals

In an audit of medical equipment in NSW hospitals, the NSW Auditor-General, Margaret Crawford found that the management of PET-CT scanners could be enhanced by better performance reporting and replacement planning, and that biomedical equipment needed more timely testing and maintenance.

The NSW Auditor-General examined the management of:

  • a high-value piece of equipment primarily used for diagnosing cancer - Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography (PET-CT) scanners

  • a small sample of lower value but critical medical equipment known as biomedical equipment.

‘The PET-CT scanners we reviewed were well utilised and there was prompt reporting of scan results by specialists to referring doctors. However, planning for the future replacement of PET-CT scanners was inconsistent and uncertain, making it unclear when and how equipment might be replaced, including what model of funding might apply. Services could also be enhanced by better reporting on how well service expectations were being met,’ said the Auditor-General.

When examining biomedical equipment, the Auditor-General found that only about half of the equipment was tested and maintained within the required intervals.

The intervals are set by hospitals under an Australian/New Zealand Standard which requires regular testing and maintenance of medical equipment to ensure it is safe and suitable for clinical use. The Auditor-General examined a sample of biomedical equipment which include, anaesthesia monitors, mobile x-rays, vital sign monitors, defibrillators, ventilators, surgical tables and haemodialysis machines.

‘The information systems used to record maintenance and testing histories of biomedical equipment were inefficient and inadequate for effective planning, monitoring and reporting. The implementation of a state-wide asset management system has experienced delays. In addition, hospitals did not adequately oversee testing and maintenance that was outsourced to external contractors,’ said the Auditor-General.

The Auditor-General recommended that NSW public hospitals review their internal business rules and processes for managing biomedical equipment to improve testing and maintenance. She also recommended that the Ministry of Health should accelerate the implementation of the state-wide asset management system to improve systems for biomedical equipment management across all public hospitals. This system has been in development since 2009.

Further information

Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, on 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664 and email