Soon, the thousands of medical radiation centres that have mushroomed in every nook and alley of the city will have to get their act together and conform to a code of norms that ensure that they are not exposing their clients and residents in their vicinity to the hazards of radiation.
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the state governments of Maharashtra and Orissa on January 21 and January 24 respectively to form the Directorate of Radiation Safety (DRS) in these states. Once the DRS is established, it would be mandatory for all the diagnostic centres which offer services like X-ray, CT scans and mammograms, including those run in private, civic and government hospitals, to register their establishments with DRS.
Also, officials attached to DRS will visit centres and inspect the layout of machines, their distance from the relatives of patients when testing is done, availability of qualified technicians and other important considerations. And if the centres are found violating any of the prescribed safety norms, DRS, through the AERB, would have the power to even derecognise such diagnostic centres.
AERB Secretary R Bhattacharya said, “The basic reason behind establishing the Directorate of Radiation Safety is to decentralise the regulation diagnostic medical imaging tests centres which run machines for X-rays, Computed Tomography (CT) scans and mammograms, all of which are known to emit radiations.”
Bhattacharya added, “The last statistics on such diagnostic centres is from the 1990s, which showed that over 50,000 medical diagnostic centres were then operational across the country. Of course, the number is much higher today, and there is no check on radiation safety.” Asked when things would be in place, Bhattacharya said, “As per the MOU, the state government has to provide the required infrastructure and manpower. AERB would be the governing authority, who would provide all required support to ensure radiation safety policy is followed at these diagnostic centres.”
While some doctors welcomed the move, others appeared circumspect. Dr Rajan Badwe, director of Tata hospital, said, “The safety of people working in these areas is now guaranteed. Also, the areas around such centres which would otherwise be exposed to radiation, would now be checked and monitored.”
Dr Sandeep Nyayanirgune, practising radiologist who is also a radiation safety officer (RSO) for a major hospital in Mumbai, said, “The move to set up DRS is welcome, it will not only help to check the standards of X-ray, CT or mammogram machines being used at the diagnostic centres, but will also ensure quality work, patient care and protection.
However, AERB should be lenient about the space allotted for installations of such machines, as space is a major issue in a city like Mumbai, where such diagnostic centres may not be able to pass specific layouts as per AERB norms. Instead, the AERB should insist on optimal requirements for protection from medical radiation hazards.”
T C Benjamin, additional chief secretary (Health) who signed the MOU on behalf of Maharashtra Government, was not available for comment. Chief Secretary Jayant Banthia said, “I am aware about the discussions, but I do not have details of the MOU off hand.”
Did you know?
Maharashtra is the third state in India to sign the MoU, following Kerala and Mizoram, which signed it in 1999 and 2011 respectively.