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PNG Govt looks at cancer services

Papua New Guinea Government is determined to have cancer treatment services provided by the Angau Hospital in Lae by the end of October and Port Moresby General Hospital by January.

Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Elias Kapavore, pictured, said for this to happen, some processes need to happen, including finalisation of the radiation safety and control regulations, by September.

“This legal requirement is important for importation of radiation sources. In the meantime, they are available within our public health systems and private sector treatment options available to treat cancer,” Kapavore said. “Radiotherapy cannot be provided in PNG until a regulatory framework is established.”

He said the regulatory framework included the Radiation Safety Control Act, which had been completed and approved by Parliament. Under this law, the National Institute of Standards and Industrial Technology PNG (Nisit) is the regulator.

“In order for Nisit to do its work, it requires the enabling regulations to enforce the principal act. The regulations are being progressed by technical expertise from Australia. The regulations will be approved by cabinet in mid-September 2019.

“The treatment of cancers by radiotherapy involves the use of controlled doses of radiation derived from radiation sources. To protect broader community health, radiation sources must be used safely.

“Because PNG does not have a regulatory framework in place, Cobalt-60, which is a radioactive source necessary for cancer treatment, cannot be procured.

“In the past, PNG was able to import Cobalt-60 in Lae, even in the absence of a regulatory framework.”

However, Kapavore said with international security threats, the rules have become much tighter with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) setting the rules for the global movement of radiation sources.

He said Nisit and IAEA must be satisfied that PNG fulfilled all the requirements prior to approval being granted for importation of Cobalt-60 and other radiation sources.

“The Radiation Safety and Control Act 2019 is to regulate the use of radioactive sources and other high energy radiation producing equipment in terms of safety, security and safeguards for radioactive and nuclear materials for the protection of the people and the environment, and to prevent materials being used to manufacture weapons for malicious intent such as for terrorism,” Kapavore said.

“The Health Department is supporting Nisit draft in the regulations to meet the deadline of September.

“Angau Hospital currently has a Colbalt-60 that is more than five years old. The acting CEO of Morobe health authority Grant Muddle has confirmed that a multi-disciplinary team, including a medical physicist and engineer, will visit Lae at the end of July to test the cobalt source. This will include checking on its strength and possible uses, as well as undertake a maintenance review of the equipment itself.

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