Srinagar: Cancer patients undergoing treatment at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Soura have been left in the lurch as the administration’s mismanagement has led to the closure of PET CT scan facility.
Official sources told Kashmir Reader that lack of expertise and absence of radiation safety at SKIMS Soura has led to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board cancelling SKIMS’ license for use and purchase of radioactive isotopes for PET CT scans.
“The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has cancelled the use and procurement licence of Nuclear Medicine Department of SKIMS for radioactive isotopes, after the department failed to fulfil radiation safety measures and recruit professional staff for doing the procedures,” the official sources said.
SKIMS started the much-awaited PET CT scan facility in January this year. Since last week, the facility has been lying defunct due to absence of radioisotope namely Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG).
The licence to use and procure radioisotope is to be renewed by AERB every year because of the dangerous radiation involved in the process.
“Some months ago the AERB had raised objection over mishandling of the isotope by SKIMS, and found absence of many radiation safety measures in the institution. Despite repeated communications, the institution failed to comply with safety measures and to recruit staff as per the guidelines,” an official privy to the developments told Kashmir Reader.
The AERB had found that staff members including the Head of the Nuclear Medicine Department did not have professional qualifications as per the guidelines.
“This is something which SKIMS was informed about much earlier. Still, they failed to end the discrepancies,” said a doctor, wishing anonymity.
FDG is the most common radioactive tracer used to determine sites of abnormal glucose metabolism and can be used to characterise and localise many types of tumours.
The Positron Emission Tomography (PET) CT scanner facility costs Rs 14,500 per scan to patients, a higher than usual cost due to the radioactive isotope having to be brought daily from Delhi to Srinagar in absence of a manufacturing facility in J&K.
It took SKIMS nearly four years to start the facility, partly due to bureaucratic hassles and partly due to withdrawal of a private investor from a Public Private Partnership.
The AERB gave its approval for the machine in 2016. However, SKIMS authorities delayed the tendering process. The scan facility was finally inaugurated on January 8 this year following the intervention of the then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The institute has acquired the PET CT scan machine from an Indian supplier for American multinational, General Electric. The machine has been purchased at an approximate cost of Rs 12-13 crore.
“The vendor which supplied the machine was supplying the isotope at a cost of Rs 1 lakh per consignment per day, to benefit nearly 10 patients. But now the vendor cannot supply the isotope illegally because SKIMS doesn’t have licence,” sources said.
Medical Superintendent Dr Farooq A Jan admitted that there were some “procedural delays” in the procurement of Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). However, he said the PET CT scan will work after a week once the institute gets clearance from AERB.
“This is an annual procedure to get permission for use of FDG from the regulatory body. We are on it and it will be done within a week,” he said.