Denial of permission to operate critical cancer treatment machine has left patients of the entire Jammu region high and dry.
Installed in the oncology department at the Government Medical College Hospital (GMCH), Jammu, in 2008, the Brachytherapy machine is lying idle for the last couple of years as the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has denied hospital the permission to operate the machine.
Brachytherapy machine used in treating specific type of cancers, including cervical, prostate, breast, and skin cancer and can also be used to treat tumours in many other body sites, is only available in GMCH in the entire Jammu region and moreover, the facility is not available at any of the private set-up here.
Non-functioning of the machine has forced the patients to resort to neighbouring states and other parts of the country for this advanced treatment.
A senior technician in the department on the condition of anonymity said that there is nothing wrong with the machine, in fact it is perfectly in working order. But due to lackadaisical attitude, the higher authorities in the hospital have failed to adhere to the AERB guidelines.
Worth Rs 1.5 crore, the Brachytherapy machine is used to treat prostate, cervical and womb cancer. It is also used to treat other cancers, such as head and neck.
Source told that the main bone of contention making Brachytherapy machine functional is the inability of the GMCH to shell out around Rs 20 lakh for de-commissioning a the teletherapy machine lying defunct in the oncology department. Moreover, the hospital is not at the fault as the state medical education department did not release the funds for the same.
“Out of the two teletherapy machines, only one of them is functional while the other is about 30 years old and lying defunct and needed immediate de-commissioning. The AERB time and again has instructed and cautioned the oncology department to de-commission the unused teletherapy machine as it is continuously emitting hazardous radiations. Despite repeated reminders, the hospital could not muster Rs 20-30 lakh, which led to denial of permission by the AERB. Now, for the last couple of years, the board has refused to renew the licence of the Brachytherapy machine,” he said.
Now, the doctors in the department and other hospitals of the region are referring the patients to AIIMS Delhi and PGI Chandigarh for the treatment where they have to wait for about 3-6 months for their turn.
The condition of the oncology ward is also is shambles. The false ceiling of the wards has worn out and in the female section, water is constantly trickling down from the air-conditioning unit. Buckets are being used to prevent water from spell in the wing.
GMCH principal Dr Ghanshyam Dev said, “The Brachytherapy machine is non-functional due to couple of reasons. One of the machine part has developed some snag and is being replaced in a few days, while funds require for decommissioning of the defunct teletherapy machine.”
On couple of occasions, we have raised the issue with concerned authorities and we are hopeful that the funds will be released shortly for decommissioning the machine. Once we decommission the machine emitting radiations, we will get permission to operate the machine from the AERB, the principal added.