THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The deadlock between the Kerala government and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) over signing a memorandum of understanding for the validation of medical diagnostic X-ray units in the state is slowly turning out to be a public health crisis. The indecision over signing the said MoU has resulted in the non-renewal of authorisation of the Directorate of Radiation Safety (DRS) in Kerala, thereby affecting the regulatory inspection of X-ray units.
“The state is yet to sign the MoU drafted by the AERB. As it is a unilateral document, the state had its reservations in signing the same. The claim of AERB that it will conduct the regulatory inspection of X-ray units is nothing but impractical,” said an officer of the Health Department.
According to the officer, the state had intimated the AERB that a mere self-declaration is not enough to operate X-ray units. It is of the demand that the issuance of licence should have to be based on the inspection at all licensing stages, namely, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning mandated under the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules 2004. When asked about this with Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan, he said, “The MoU was for authorising the DRS to carry out the regulatory inspection of X-ray units on behalf of AERB. But as it stands cancelled the responsibility of inspection lies now with AERB.” He also added the state had its own limitations in pressing its demand as atomic energy falls under the Union List.
At the same time, sources with the Health Department said the inspections being carried out by AERB in the state have so far turned out to be ‘namesake ones’. “There is no periodic inspection from the part of AERB. The assessment is the state had around 7,000 X-ray units in operation. But AERB figures itself say only 3,700 such units had a valid registration. This means about 4,000 units were unlicensed ones. Why the AERB is not acting action against this,” said an officer of the Health Department.
However, AERB had stated in its website they had conducted inspection of 79 X-ray facilities (both government and private institutions) in various parts of the state in December and pursuant to the inspection, it had also sealed X-ray machines in eight institutions, which were found non-compliant to the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules, 2004. It also stated 29 institutions have been issued with warnings and instructions to comply with the AERB norms and safety requirements within 30 days.
Earlier, the Health Department had revealed “Most of the hospitals under it are functioning without licence/registration from AERB and not even a Site Approval Certificate from the DRS.” It was in the eighteenth report of the Assembly Committee on Public Accounts that the said revelation was made.