New cancer therapy equipment for Royapettah hospital

CHENNAI NOV. 7. The Royapettah Government Hospital's Radiation Oncology section, a part of its cancer treatment wing, recently replaced its worn out indigenously made Gamma Rex machine with an imported and `superior' Theratron Phoenix.

Till now the hospital had to manage with the time-consuming old machine, which could, at the most, treat only 50 patients a day. As a result, the hospital has had to maintain a waiting list of people for its radiation therapy. According to P. Kaliappan, Assistant Professor of Radiology Physics, since the hospital is the only one in the city that offers Chemotherapy, Surgical Oncology and Radiation Oncology under one roof, they receive a large number of patients.

I.M. Jainulabdeen, professor of Radiation Oncology, says while doctors had to manually estimate the location of the cancer cells before they administered radiation therapy when they used the Gamma Rex machine, with the Theratron Phoenix the doctors can not only accurately identify the cancerous areas but also find the optimum angle from which to direct the rays. Thus, the radiation treatment is more accurate and effective.

The new equipment, worth Rs. 1.5 crores, was funded by the National Cancer Control Programme and is capable of administering radiation treatment to a 100 patients a day, theoretically. Though the quality of treatment will certainly improve once this sophisticated equipment replaces the 20-year-old Gamma Rex, unfortunately the number of patients treated is unlikely to increase since the hospital has just two radiographers.

According to compulsory safety measures prescribed to prevent excess exposure to radiation, each radiographer can treat just 25 patients a day. Therefore, even with the new equipment the radiographers will still have to close the department by 2 p.m. once they have seen 50 patients.

Though the hospital has three posts for radiographers, one has been left vacant for two years as a result of the Government's ban on recruitment. Doctors say if this post is filled they will be able to work on a shift system and thus make optimum use of the new expensive equipment.

C. Ravindranath, Director of Medical Education, says the Government recently sanctioned the recruitment of doctors and para-medical workers for 1,050 till-now-vacant posts. He also says the department intend to hire another radiographer now that the Theratron Phoenix is in place.

The Madurai Medical College and the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology have received the same equipment. All the three machines will be put into use simultaneously at their respective hospitals when the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, commissions the new infrastructure on Friday.

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