Va Center Told About Possible Violations

Nuclear Regulatory Group Says Security Possibly Was Inadequate

April 23, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has notified the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Baltimore of four apparent violations its inspectors discovered, including inadequate security for radioactive materials in the nuclear medicine department.

The NRC is scheduled to meet with hospital officials April 30 at the federal regulatory agency's regional offices near Philadelphia to discuss the apparent violations, which were cited in inspections Feb. 26 and 27 and March 13, NRC officials said yesterday.

The officials emphasized that they have not determined whether any violations occurred at the hospital, located at 10 N. Greene St. downtown.

According to the inspection report, an NRC inspector found the door to a lab in the nuclear medicine department, where radioactive materials are stored, open one day and closed but unlocked the next day. The inspector did not find evidence that any unauthorized person had access to the materials. Nothing was missing.

Cynthia O'Donovan, radiation safety officer for VA hospitals in Baltimore, Fort Howard and Perry Point, called the alleged security violation an "isolated incident."

"It was accidentely left unlocked," she said. "The technicians were in the area, so in reality the isotopes were not left unsecured."

Dr. Eliot Siegel, chief of imaging for the VA's Maryland health care system, said a lock has been installed that engages automatically, and radioactive materials have been locked inside the room.

A second possible violation involved detection of slightly excessive levels of radiation on three occasions in unrestricted areas adjacent to the rooms of patients, who were being administered radioactive iodine for treatment of overactive thyroids or cancer of the thyroid.

O'Donovan said that the areas outside the patients' rooms were posted with radiation warnings.

The other possible violations involved failure of a staff member to sign a written directive before administering the radioactive iodine; and a violation in the quarterly testing of the calibrator that measures the dosage of radiation administered to patients.

Siegel said the alleged violations were technical in nature. "None of them really, in my opinion, have any significant impact on the care of our patients," he said.

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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