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Radiation overdoses in TT

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

Radiation overdoses in TT

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – More than 200 patients have been exposed to overdoses of radiation treatment due to malfunctioning equipment at the Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Centre, Health Minister Dr. Fuad Khan has said.
Khan and Chief Medical Officer Dr Anton Cumberbatch said that the patients were exposed to higher levels of radiation during treatment for cancer at the centre over a one-year period because a radiation treatment machine at the centre was miscalibrated.
They said that 223 patients treated for cancer were exposed to more radiation than was required from the machine.  According to the health officials, the patients were exposed to overdoses of radiation between four and 20 per cent higher than what was supposed to have been administered to them.
Khan said that in September last year, a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) radiation and protection safety team came to Trinidad and Tobago to assist in an investigation involving the machine.
The team confirmed the machine had been miscalibrated and administered overdoses of radiation to patients for a year.
The problems with the machine – called a CLINAC linear accelerator – were resolved.
Khan said several recommendations were made to the ministry which included formally writing the centre’s management to follow up on “223 possibly exposed patients” and to enact legislation to regulate the operations of radiation therapy facilities. 
Khan urged patients treated within the period to contact the centre.
“We hope the 223 patients, if they have not yet been contacted by the Brain Lara Cancer Centre in that period, should do so and get whatever checks needed to determine whether or not there was any over-exposure or any mal-affects from that radiation.” 
Cumberbatch said the centre was instructed to contact patients and that the ministry was monitoring the situation.
 “When you get exposed to radiation, the question of monitoring patients extends from a period of three to five years, so it is possible that for the immediate first year or six months, there may not be any symptoms at all.” 
The relative of one former patient has already taken legal action against Medcorp Ltd, the operators of the cancer treatment centre.
Health officials would give no details yesterday about the legal action. (CMC)