THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A conflict of interest between the Centre and state governments over signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has jeopardised the regulatory inspection of medical diagnostic X-ray facilities in the state.
The MoU pertains to the renewal of the authorisation of Thrissur-based Directorate of Radiation Safety (DRS) to keep in check the unsafe use of X-ray and related health risks, including cancer. The non-signing of the MoU has stalled the functioning of DRS from February.
“The conflict of interest is over the approval of X-ray units via e-Licensing system (e-LORA),” said an officer with the Health Department.
“Under it, an institution merely needs a self-declaration for its operation. As there is no provision to cross-check the authenticity of the claim, it might lead to mushrooming of X-ray units.”
The assessment is the state had around 7,000 X-ray units in operation. But as per AERB figures, only 3,700 such units had a valid registration. This means about 4,000 units were unlicensed, said the officer.
The absence of monitoring will only help put the lives of those operating and using such units at stake.
Corroborating the same, Dr Mohanan K, state president, Indian Radiological and Imaging Association, said due to non-operation of DRS, the monitoring and inspection of X-ray units and machines remain largely absent and has become a cause of public health concern. He also said as DRS has found to be understaffed, enforcement programmes are also getting affected.
Meanwhile, it is learnt the state had intimated the AERB mere self-declaration is not enough to operate X-ray units. It is of the demand the issuance of license should have to be based on the inspection of all licensing stages, namely, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning mandated under the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules 2004. However, the state had its own limitations in pressing its demand as atomic energy falls under the Union List.
“Taking note of the significance of the issue, the Health Department is giving a serious consideration for signing the MoU. But it has asked the Law Department to vet it and an appropriate decision will be taken without much delay,” said an officer with the Directorate of Health Services. Earlier, a letter sent by A U Sonawane, head, Directorate of Regulatory Affairs and Communications of AERB, in April to the state Health Department reminded the renewal of authorisation of DRS requires a formally endorsed MoU.
It further states AERB is in touch with the department to finalise it. An amendment to the Atomic Energy Act followed by the introduction of e-LORA makes the DRS somewhat non-operational. The state is weighing the option to make it functional by making necessary legislation. We have sought the opinion of the Law Department, said the Health Secretary.