Safdarjung radiotherapy unit shut, cancer patients turned away
The Radiotherapy Department of the premier Safdarjung Hospital has been shut after Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) ordered its closure for non-renewal of radiation safety licence, abruptly halting treatment of cancer patients.
AERB, responsible for implementation of radiation safety norms, in a notice to the hospital ordered that it stops admitting new patients for radiation therapy, sources at Safdarjung Hospital said.
"The directive came from AERB following a lapse on part of the Radiological Safety Officer (RSO) of the hospital who applied for the renewal via paper-based application instead of online mode. AERB has now switched entirely to the online mode," said a senior doctor at the hospital.
"Now the RSO has to re-submit the application and once it gets approved, the hospital can start fresh admission of patients for radiation therapy," the doctor added. The hospital had received the notice on November 18.
In Delhi, there are four hospitals treating cancer patients — Safdarjung Hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi State Cancer Institute, and Lok Nayak Hospital. This is the second time that such a notice has been issued to Safdarjung Hospital. Last time it happened in 2011, the sources said.
"No new patients shall be admitted to the radiotherapy department of your institution for radiation therapy, with immediate effect," read the AERB notice.
However, the hospital was allowed to continue with radio therapy treatment of patients already admitted. Around 30 patients were turned away on Saturday from the hospital, said the doctor, adding that Safdarjung on an average receives over 120 patients a week for radiation therapy. Doctors say that radiation therapy is recommended for cancer patients as it uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumours and kill cancer cells.
AERB guidelines state that radiation therapy cannot be administered to cancer patients without a Radiological Safety Officer, who should ensure that radiation safety activities were being performed in accordance with approved procedures and regulatory requirements in the daily operation of the licensee's programme.