Cancer Institute says never told of radiation leak

The head of the Cancer Institute of Guyana (CIG) says he is shocked at Health Minister Bheri Ramsaran’s disclosure that the facility is not being granted a licence to operate because of “deficiencies,” including radiation leakages, since no such incident was ever reported.

“I was also very shocked to see the report in your paper today with a statement from the Minister of Health that the Cancer Institute had an issue with radiation leaking from the LINAC room to the adjacent rooms,” CIG Chief Executive Officer Dr. George Nellamattathil told Stabroek News.

He was responding to a Sunday Stabroek report that quoted Ramsaran as saying that CIG was refused a licence to operate over the last year because of deficiencies, including the leakage of radiation into adjoining rooms and the corridors from its radiation therapy machine.

The CIG, which began its operation in 2006, is located in the compound of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

“I must say that there was no such incident ever reported in all the inspections conducted by the radiation specialists and the inspectors of PAHO [the Pan-American Health Organisation], hired by the Ministry of Health to assist the Ministry of Health inspectors, since there are no qualified individuals to perform these inspections in Guyana” Nellamattahil added.

Further, he informed that CIG has complied with all requirements for licensing and a meeting with Health Ministry inspectors was conducted last week and it was guaranteed a licence once its contracts with the professionals who work at the centre were submitted.

“Currently we are waiting for the ministry to issue a licence, so we can resume the treatment. The Ministry of Health provided us a guarantee to issue the licence upon submitting the above documents and three days after the professionals arrive in Guyana” he added.

The professionals were scheduled to arrive in Guyana on Monday.
Ramsaran, in addressing the refusal to grant the CIG a licence, said that it will take investment and time but “we would not compromise standards.”

He also revealed that the ministry has engaged PAHO in an effort to improve the operational standards at the institute.

He noted that contrary to what is believed by many, the ministry has not just been refusing to give the requisite signature to the institution; rather, it has been working with it to ensure that the minimum standards are achieved.

Recognising the importance of the service provided, he added, the ministry has been in close contact with Nellamattathil and also the management of the St Joseph Mercy Hospital, where CIG operates a branch.

Nellamattathil said that he believes that clarity will be had on the situation when the team arrives. “I believe that all speculations can be clarified if there is an opportunity to present the current status of the Institute directly to the minister by our professional staff,” he said.

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