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Home News and Update Year 2010 Hospital Radiotherapy Unit Faces Action

Hospital Radiotherapy Unit Faces Action

Times of India
13 May 2010
By Durgesh Nandan Jha
New Delhi, India

Hospital radiotherapy unit faces action
The country’s oldest radiotherapy unit at Safdarjung Hospital, which is visited by more than a hundred cancer patients daily, is facing action for not adhering to radiation safety guidelines. The unit does not have the required number of medical physicists and instruments for controlled and safe treatment of cancer patients.

Sources said the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) wrote to the hospital last month warning that the shortcomings must be immediately rectified. The hospital is yet to reply, said sources.

The letter, a copy of which is with the TOI, lists the following drawbacks: First, an adequate number of medical physicists are not available. Second, the calibration of secondary standard dosimeter (used for quality assurance checks) is not valid. Third, periodic quality assurance tests are not being carried out. Fourth, the activity of the Ir–192 source during source loading was 13.02 Ci, which is more than the activity value for which the HDR unit is type approved. Fifth, an unused source (Sr–90) is lying in the radiotherapy department . And lastly, basic qualification of radiotherapy technologists is not mentioned.

“You are advised to take immediate action to rectify the above discrepancies, and action taken in this regard and status of the discrepancies must be intimated to this division quoting the above mentioned ‘reference no’ by the end of every month till all the discrepancies are rectified,” the letter adds.

When contacted, the head of the radiotherapy department at the hospital, Dr N Das, refused to comment on the issue.“I am not authorized to speak to the media,” said Das. Additional medical superintendent Dr Sudhir Chandra said he was not aware of any communication between the hospital administration and the AERB.“The administration is not aware of any such development. The letter must have come to the HOD,” he said.

Hospital sources said that of the three telecobalt units – each of 11,000 curie – available for radiotherapy, work on two has been discontinued due to lack of staff. The gamma irradiator sold off by Delhi University had Cobalt–60 with 3,000 curie. If the hospital fails to comply with the AERB guidelines, the department may be shut down, the sources added.

In December 2009, the board had sent a similar letter to the hospital asking it to“stop using two telecobalt units for clinical use immediately till adequate number of medical physicists are available”. The department did not have a calibrated and working electrometer either. Not complying withregulatory requirements means that patients as well as staff have been exposed to unquantifiable levels of radiation over the past few years.

In most of the hospitals, teletherapy has given way to cancer treatment through linear accelerator that is based on x–ray and is more precise.“In telecobalt, the gamma rays of cobalt are used and this has several drawbacks. Cobalt is a 24–hour source of radiation and it is not used commonly for deep–seated tumours,” said an expert.

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