Identifying and Addressing Gaps
“General Safety Requirement Part 3 provides a solid basis for the Member States to develop their national legislation for radiation protection in medicine. However, its successful implementation related to medical exposure—including the exposure of patients, carers, comforters and volunteers in biomedical research — is a significant challenge,” said Dean Zontar, an Inspector-Councillor at the Slovenian Radiation Protection administration.
Zontar also delivered a presentation on behalf of a group of experts who evaluated current adherence to the IAEA’s Safety Standards for radiation protection in medical exposure. Using the IAEA Radiation Safety Information Management System (RASIMS) and other relevant information, he demonstrated how and where progress had been achieved by Member States in Europe and Central Asia receiving TC support, and underscored the challenges which persist.
“Although the Europe region is seen as having good radiation protection and safety regulatory systems, there are still many gaps in both regulatory requirements and in their implementation in practice,” Zontar said. “In many countries there is an apparent lack of understanding of the specifics of regulating medical exposure, and further support to improve understanding is needed,” he added.
To provide this kind of support, the IAEA routinely develops, disseminates and delivers training and expert guidance to countries around the world to support the work of the regulatory bodies, medical radiation facilities and healthcare staff involved in the diagnostic and therapeutic use of ionizing radiation.
“Cooperation between stakeholders such as regulatory authorities, health authorities and medical professional bodies is essential and should be improved,” said Jenia Vassileva, an IAEA Radiation Protection Specialist who addressed the side-event participants, explaining the Agency’s role in strengthening patient protection regimes. “The TC Europe region will be the first to benefit from comprehensive advisory missions to Member States to support their full adherence to the IAEA safety standards for medical exposure.”
Quality assurance is an important component of IAEA support in the field of medical imaging. Virginia Tsapaki, an IAEA Medical Physicist specializing in diagnostic radiology, underscored this association between quality and imaging in her subsequent presentation.
“Quality assurance and dosimetry is critical in medical imaging. A mistake, misuse or malfunction of an X-ray machine can affect the diagnosis of the patient,” explained Tsapaki. “X-ray systems must be closely monitored using established quality assurance programmes and the use of machines should be tailored to each individual patient’s needs.”