Shutdown of SKIMS PET scan: Internal bickering, lack of professional work culture led to crisis
Srinagar: While SKIMS produced dozens of qualified professionals in Nuclear Medicine, it is, at present, struggling to have one in order to keep its PET scan that was installed there in January this year, functional.
The sorry state of affairs is reflected on ground as not even one person is qualified enough as per the guidelines at SKIMS to run the scan, forcing the administration to shut it, following the refusal of renewing the procurement of radioisotopes by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
The regulatory board, AERB has shut the machinery, by not renewing the procurement of radioisotopes, demanding someone qualified to run the machine.
The question that is being asked is that why doesn’t SKIMS have even one professionally qualified person, despite having a full-fledged department functioning in the hsopital. The story is long and demands attention.
Notably, the Department of Nuclear Medicine, which has produced a number of professionals, is currently craving to have one, in order to stand up in compliance with the guidelines put forth by AERB.
All those who were trained at SKIMS under Nuclear Medicine’s DNB Program, are currently out of the state earning handsomely.
This reporter talked to few of the professionals who were trained at SKIMS for Nuclear Medicine and could have handled the machinery at SKIMS, thus averting the crisis. Some are heading the departments outside, while others are conducting PET scans that too quite high in number that are otherwise being conducted in SKIMS.
A doctor who is currently heading the department outside told this reporter that he and many others who were trained at SKIMS were given no space to stick around, due to politics, during the period of ex-head of the department Showket Khan.
The medicos termed the atmosphere ‘suffocating’.
“You see there are avenues outside the state as well, there was no reason for me to stick around amid the void that was created by the department then, I decided to move outside and I am happily living here, earning what I could have never at SKIMS,” he said.
Same tales were narrated by others who are professionals in the Nuclear Medicine and were trained at SKIMS, but, as they said “they were not let to stick around, and were later compelled to move outside the state.”
Pertinently, AERB demands that a person who can be authorized to overlook the function of the PET scan must have an MD in the Nuclear Medicine; the irony being that the current Head of the Department is an MD in Radiotherapy, which is as per the MCI guidelines and against the AERB directives when it comes to the dealing with the radiations.
While SKIMS is saying that the MCI has kept both the options open, which is the person who can be authorized for the functioning of the PET must have an either an MD in Nuclear Medicine or MD in Radiotherapy, but experts are arguing that the MCI has got nothing to do with the regulation of the radiation equipment.
Pertinently, the Radiological Safety Division (RDS) of the AERB in a letter had said the procurement of the radioisotopes will not be renewed until the compliance to the guidelines, “… you may please note that the renewal of radioisotope procurement permissions may be considered on complying with the regulatory requirements and submission of the report on radiological safety status of the department for the year 2018,” the letter issued to the Department of Nuclear Medicine reads.
A board member of the AERB told this reporter that MCI can ask the hospitals what they must have for the functioning of the hospital, “but it (MCI) has no say when it comes to the regulation of the equipment dealing with the radiation,” he said.
Back in 60’s the MCI had directed that if there was a non-availability of MD in Nuclear Medicine, an MD in Radiotherapy can fill in the gap, but, the board member said “that was for the teaching purpose, and nothing else, here we are talking about actually dealing with the radiation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Medical Superintendent, SKIMS Dr Farooq Jan, while saying that they are in talks with the board, earlier put forth the argument that the MCI allows both the options.
He on Monday again reiterated that the MCI guidelines were opposite to those of AERB, “this is a special case where the guidelines are opposite to each other,” he said. Dr Jan said that the Director SKIMS, Dr Omar Javaid Shah is on it and “something will be sorted out soon,” he said.
Interestingly, the ex-Head of the Department, Nuclear Medicine only had a Radiological Safety Officer Certification; the person who followed him is an MD in Radiotherapy.