Australian news, and some related international items

Dangerous radiation mishaps surge across NSW hospitals and medical centres

SMH Carrie Fellner, December 12, 2022 ,

Radiation accidents have surged across NSW hospitals and medical diagnostic imaging centres as the state records a dangerous upswing in rates of equipment malfunctions and human errors.

In one incident, which has been referred to the healthcare watchdog, a cancer patient’s radiation treatment was bungled, resulting in their healthy tissue being dosed with radiation four times instead of their tumour.

In the past financial year, there were 263 accidents across the state, or an average of five a week, according to the annual report of the NSW EPA’s Radiation Advisory Council.

“This total represents a 26 per cent increase on the total accidents reported in the previous year (209) and reaffirms the strong year-on-year upward trend in reporting,” said the report, published without fanfare last week.

“Human error is the primary cause of reported accidents, with the majority due to failure to follow procedures and protocols or incorrect interpretation of patient information,” it said.

Equipment failures had also “increased substantially” on previous years, the report noted.

The council requested “a further breakdown of equipment failures to establish if the same brand of equipment has the same errors across different sites”.

The council also recommended the EPA raise the increase in preventable accidents with health authorities in NSW and emphasise the appropriate ordering of medical imaging procedures.

In response to questions on Sunday, an EPA spokeswoman attributed the rise in accidents to increased reporting……………………..

“The EPA is investigating reports of equipment and software malfunctions, and is contacting manufacturers.”

Of the total number of incidents, 172 involved exposure to more than one millisievert of radiation.

The average person in Australia is exposed to about 1.7 millisieverts of radiation a year from natural sources, according to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency……….

The accidents fell into three categories: medical imaging procedures such as X-rays and CT scans, radiation treatments in hospital oncology wards and nuclear medicine procedures such as PET scans.

There was a steep rise in the number of accidents reported involving radiation oncology, which jumped from three in 2017-18 to 57 logged last financial year.

Equipment failures accounted for 30 per cent of all accidents last financial year, up from 20 per cent in the previous financial year.

The second most common cause was a patient’s paperwork not being interpreted or read correctly by staff, with 49 people affected.

……………. “These incidents are rare in the context of the number of procedures performed in public and private facilities, but it is important that any incident is reviewed through appropriate channels, including the Radiation Advisory Council,” the spokesperson said.

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister James Griffin said he was pleased to see increased reports to the regulator by radiation oncology workers…..


December 12, 2022 - Posted by | New South Wales, safety

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