Nearly a year after its commissioning, hi-tech diagnostic facility PET Scan has been closed at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura here due to failure of the state government to ensure compliance to Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) regulations, leaving cancer patients in lurch.
The lone PET -Scan facility in Kashmir was started at SKIMS in January this year. The facility has been closed due to non-availability of radio-isotope that was being transported to SKIMS from Delhi via Air India.
As per a source, without no-objection certificate (NOC) issued by AERB, Air India has refused to carry the isotope to Srinagar.
The NOC that ensures the supply of radio-isotope FDG-18 (Fludeoxyglucose 18), without which PET Scan is not possible, needs to be renewed by AERB annually, but “technical issues” have put a question mark over the possibility, the source said.
While last December, just before PET Scan was started at SKIMS, the institute received an NOC from AERB as the head department of nuclear medicine, Prof Showkat A Khan, possessed the requisite certification sought by AERB, a senior SKIMS official said.
“However, when Prof Khan superannuated in March this year, the validity of AERB NOC came under question and SKIMS had to seek intervention of High Court to ensure isotope supply,” he said.
He said that Court issued directions to AERB to ensure the supply of radio-isotopes to SKIMS, following which the supply was restored and continued uninterrupted till last week.
However, now, the NOC requires to be renewed by AERB and that has created the issue, the official said. He said that while the current head of Nuclear Medicine department possesses the requisite certificate recognized by Medical Council of India (MCI), the AERB had differing parameters and the variation in requirements by the two regulatory bodies is yet to be resolved.
Consequently, for the past 10 days, the official said, no PET Scans have been carried out at the Institute, even though, in less than one year, over 1000 PET Scans were done. “The volume of scans that were done in these months at the department of Nuclear Medicine tells us about the essentiality of this diagnostic test here in Kashmir,” the official said. He added that currently, patients had no option but to spend around Rs 1 lakh to go outside the state go get the test done. At SKIMS, the scan would cost Rs 12000.
A senior faculty at SKIMS blamed state government for subjecting the cancer patients to inconvenience. “It was a well known fact in the governing body of SKIMS that Prof Khan was vital for continuation of PET Scan here, but no efforts were made to retain him. The situation should have been pre-empted. Government should have retained Prof Khan, but the authorities took the situation very lightly,” he said.
Prof Khan, the faculty member said, was immediately recruited after his retirement from SKIMS by Narayana Hospital of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi in Katra and “is helping that hospital run its PET Scan successfully”.
Director SKIMS, Prof Omar Javed Shah said that the Institute had apprised the government about the situation and Prof Khan’s name had already been recommended for extension “for logical reason”.
He said that AERB was under legal binding to ensure supply of radio-isotope and the Institute was seeking fresh directions from Court in light of the recent developments. “We are actively pursuing the issue and hopefully, in a week, the issue will be resolved,” he said.
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