For the fourth time in 15 years, the radiotherapy department at Lok Nayak Hospital is facing a shutdown. And once again for the same reason.
For the past 15 years, the Delhi Government has not been able to find a Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is refusing to approve the use of radioactive sources without an RSO.
The hospital has stopped accepting cancer patients; new cases are being referred to Safdarjang Hospital. The AERB has, however, allowed the hospital to complete treatment of existing patients. “We have approximately 85 cancer patients who need radiation. Once their treatment is over, the department will have to be shut down. Even curable cancer cases are rendered incurable because of the government’s lack of concern,” said a senior resident doctor in the department.
Since 1994, the hospital has not had a permanent RSO (who also works as a medical physicist). “In the private sector, a medical physicist draws close to a lakh while in a government hospital, his salary is around Rs 18,000 and the post is temporary. Why would anyone want to stay? The only ones affected by the government’s indifference are cancer patients,” added another doctor.
Walk-in interviews have failed to yield results. “We are trying our best to find a replacement soon. Walk-in interviews are being held and we are trying to resolve the issue,” said Delhi Health Secretary Vivek Rae.
AERB officials are expected to inspect the department after February 22 — the last working day of the current medical physicist — orders its closure.
In 1994, 2002 and 2006, the AERB had cancelled the department’s licence and refused to replace the cobalt machine’s radioactive sources because there was no safety officer.