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Radiation officer on leave,hospital faces regulatory panel’s wrath

Fresh trouble seems to be brewing at the Lok Nayak Hospital. While radioactive material abandoned at the hospital’s gynaecological department has been bothering the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board...

Written by Vidya Krishnan | New Delhi |
June 3, 2009 2:32:38 am

Fresh trouble seems to be brewing at the Lok Nayak Hospital. While radioactive material abandoned at the hospital’s gynaecological department has been bothering the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for years,there are now more safety issues at stake.

With the hospital’s current medical physicist,who also doubles as the radiation safety officer (RSO) and is responsible for the safe use of radioactive materials on cancer patients,on leave for over a month,the regulatory board is considering suspending operations of the hospital’s Radiotherapy department.

According to AERB rules radiation cannot be administered to patients in the absence of an RSO. The hospital,however,maintains it is trying to find replacements. “We are trying to sort out the matter. We want to hire more than one RSO and medical physicist so that when one goes on leave,patient safety is not jeopardised,” Dr Arun Agarwal,Dean and Medical Superintendent at the hospital,said.

The hospital has not had a permanent RSO since 1994. “In the private sector,medical physicists draw close to Rs 1 lakh as salary while in a government hospital they get around Rs 18,000 – this is apart from the fact that the post is temporary. Why would anyone want to stay? The only ones affected by the government’s indifference are cancer patients,” a doctor said.

Meanwhile,authorities maintain the hospital has little time to get its act together. “We will soon be inspecting the facilities at the hospital,and will look into the issues of manpower and that of the radioactive source. If warnings do not work,we might have to suspend operations,” S P Agarwal,head of the radiation safety division at AERB,said.

This is not the first time the AERB is considering cancelling the department’s licence for usage of radioactive sources. The radiotherapy department has been shut down thrice in the last 15 years due to similar reasons.

In 1994,2002 and 2006,the AERB had cancelled the department’s licence and refused to replace a cobalt machine’s radioactive source. The AERB had refused to approve the use of radioactive sources without an RSO. The regulatory board has repeatedly reminded the hospital to surrender its radioactive source to AERB,as per procedure,since it poses a major hazard to patients if not stored properly.

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