Why is metal cutting so dangerous?
A new metal detector at the Gold Coast’s Royal Adelaide Hospital may not be as safe as it sounds, according to a recent report.
Key points:Metal detectors are being used to detect dangerous substances such as cocaine and heroin and metal objects are being detected at other hospitals in AustraliaA report found the new technology may not always be as effective as it’s cracked up to beThe report found some hospitals may be using metal detectors and metal background detection technology in ways that are potentially dangerousThe Royal Adelaide has already had a new metal detecting system installed but this latest report says the new equipment could be too dangerous.
It found a metal detector is not always as effective at detecting dangerous substances as it cracked up.
The report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which looked at the use of metal detectors at the Royal Adelaide hospital, said the new detectors were “not 100 per cent effective” when it came to detecting dangerous items.
The Royal Perth and Central Hospital had a metal detecting device that was “inconsistent with the standard of care” and was “not able to identify drugs or contraband”.
It found that a similar device could detect drugs “with some difficulty” but this device could only be used if the hospital was equipped with a “level-4” detector.
It’s a level-4 detector that has been installed in other hospitals, the report said.
“Level 4” means the detector has been rated “in the top 5 per cent” by Health and Safety at the hospital, meaning it is considered “extremely reliable”.
The report also found that while metal detectors may be effective, they can be “not always reliable” and that there are other ways of detecting dangerous things, such as metal objects being detected.
Dr Rob McBride, the chief executive of the Australian Medical Association, said that the “problem is not only the lack of the technology itself but also the lack [of] the technology and the lack the training of the staff”.
“We don’t need to look at the medical technology in isolation but we need to understand the impact on patients,” he said.
Dr McBride said it was “disappointing” that there was no formal training in the medical profession to prevent people from using metal detecting devices.
“I don’t know why we have not seen some training and some education of our own in regard to the use and misuse of these devices,” he told the ABC.
“There’s a lot of public health and health services out there that would do well to look after their equipment, and they should be.”
He said there were also “issues around the technology in general”.
“If we don’t have the proper training, and we don [also] not have the appropriate training, then there is the potential for some serious consequences,” he added.
Dr John Taylor, the director of the Health and Medical Education Authority, said there was not enough information available on how the equipment works.
“This is a new and evolving technology that needs to be developed and tested to ensure that it is safe,” he wrote in an email to the ABC, adding that “no current data suggests the use is safe or effective”.
“This does not mean that it does not have a positive impact on the safety of health and safety training.”
He added that the technology was “designed for use in controlled environments”.
“It can be difficult to establish exactly what level of training and supervision is needed to use the device safely and effectively.”
He also said there should be “adequate and well-funded” training for staff to prevent misuse.
“We would expect that appropriate education, supervision and regulation of the use would be in place for all staff,” he stated.
Dr Taylor said there had been “no reports of any deaths” linked to metal detecting.
“The use of the metal detector has not been associated with any deaths,” he explained.
“However, in recent years there have been reports of people using metal detector equipment and it has been suggested that this could be the result of a misunderstanding between staff and the equipment or some other risk.”
He noted that the use was not compulsory, and it was also not recommended that people had the equipment on their person.
“Staff should always ensure that the equipment is not left unattended, with the equipment securely stored in a locked safe,” Dr Taylor wrote.
Dr MacQuarrie, a former chief medical officer of Western Australia, said it could be “unethical” for the staff of the Royal Perth Hospital to be trained in metal detecting equipment.
“When you have equipment that is so effective and so cheap, you should expect to find someone using it,” he tweeted.
He also questioned the use as a means of detecting “dangerous” substances.
“It’s very difficult to assess how effective or not effective it is,” he commented.
“How do we know when it’s going to work?
Is it going to be effective in identifying something that we might not expect?”