Barring the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, none of the hospitals in the Capital have a segregated disaster management or decontamination area. Neither do they conduct regular drills to keep the disaster management team taut enough to immediately spot, segregate and treat patients coming in with exposure to chemical, biological, radiology or nuclear (CBRN) substances.

This is in violation of the guidelines set by the National Disaster Management Authority to deal with such disasters. Following this established protocol helps doctors identify radiation victims immediately and start treatment which is vital in such cases. All the victims of the Cobalt-60 exposure in Mayapuri lost precious time because hospitals were unable to identify the exposure.

“The AIIMS trauma centre is the only health care facility in the Capital that strictly adheres to the protocol to identify and treat such patients. It is important that patients of CBRN exposure are identified immediately and transported to a healthcare facility. Besides handling patients, we also need to be aware of the harmful effects of secondary decontamination among contacts including the police, neighbours and health care workers who come in touch with the victims. They too need specialised health care management,” said JPN Apex Trauma Care Centre officer in-charge Sanjeev Bhoi.

He added that long term or heavy dose of exposure to radiation can cause bone marrow toxicity, lung toxicity, cancer and infertility.

Additional Medical Superintendent at Safdarjung Hospital Dr. K.T. Bhowik said: “In case a proper protocol was followed and doctors were made aware of the CBRN exposure guidelines, they would have been able to immediately identify the symptoms the victims were displaying. The disaster management and decontamination area are important as any CBRN patient can be immediately identified, prepared and decontaminated for treatment. None of the city hospitals except the AIIMS Trauma Centre has this facility at present.”

Cobalt-60 is a radioactive isotope of cobalt which is a hard, lustrous, grey metal and is also used in radiotherapy for treating cancer. Such material rarely comes into the public domain under normal circumstances, said experts.

“Radioactive waste is collected and disposed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. These are controlled items with batch numbers and there is little chance of these coming into the public domain as scrap from any hospital in the country,” said Mr. Dharmendra, Secretary (Environment, Forest and Wildlife) Delhi.

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