Former cancer patient says radiation bungle shows flaw in the health system

Assurances from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) that cancer patients at the Royal Adelaide Hospital are at a minimal risk from an inadvertent 5 per cent reduction in their prescribed radiation dosage between 2004 to 2006, may reassure some but many former patients will still be worried.

The mistake involves 720 cancer patients and occurred because one of four radiation machines at the hospital was incorrectly calibrated.

The chief executive officer of the South Australian Health Department, Dr. Tony Sherbon says the issue was resolved in 2006 and there is no evidence to show the patients were at risk.

While the RAH discovered the error in 2006, the variation was at the time regarded as insignificant; Dr. Sherbon says he only learned of the mistake when he received a complaint last week.

South Australia's Health Department is apparently notifying all those patients concerned but says it will take time for an inquiry to establish whether cancer patients were put at risk.

But one former RAH cancer patient Ashleigh Moore is not satisfied and has demanded answers as to why it has taken so long for the problem to be revealed and for something to be done about it.

Mr Moore who was treated for head and neck cancer during that period, is also the chairman of Cancer Voices SA, and he says from a safety and quality perspective, the bungle highlights a terrible flaw in the State's health system.

Mr Moore says he hopes the incident does not deter cancer patients off having radiotherapy and preventative measures must now be taken to ensure this does not happen again.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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