Shortage of radiation safety officers has led the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to revoke licences for radiotherapy treatment at three big government hospitals in the city.
Any hospital using radiation equipment needs three key people before the AERB can issue them a licence — a licencee, owner and physicist.
“Lok Nayak Hospital and Delhi State Cancer Institute (DSCI) do not have licences. Safdarjung has only one machine operational, as they do not have the required number of radiation safety officers (physicists),” said a member of the radiation safety council, not wishing to be quoted.
“According to AERB protocol, each brachytherapy machine needs at least one physicist, and barring the radio-therapy department at AIIMS, no other hospital is complying with the norms,” said the council member.
“It is unfortunate that despite most big government hospitals having the machines, lack of physicists and the administration’s short sightedness is causing the departments to close,” said a senior radiotherapy expert.
The licence for Lok Nayak Hospital was revoked for the sixth time in last 19 years, after it was found functioning without a physicist.
“Internal politics and disinterested administration had led to this situation. After the contract of the last physicist was over, no new hiring was done,” said a Delhi government source. Head of radiotherapy at Lok Nayak Dr A.K. Bahadur was unavailable for comment.
“The requirement for the two posts has been sent to the UPSC,” said Dr Kishore Singh of Lok Nayak.
“For 19 years, physicist recruitments have been happening on ad-hoc basis. Most physicists leave us for lucrative, permanent job offers,” he said.
“On contract, the government pays only Rs 14,000 to physicists,” said a senior doctor from Safdarjung hospital.
Dr R.K. Grover, Head, DSCI, disagrees that they are facing problems with recruiting physicists. “We have three machines and two physicists.”