Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan is charging that a newspaper article stating there was clinical evidence of severe radiation injury in cancer patients who received treatment at the Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Centre (BLCTC) sensationalised a report done by radiation experts. At a news conference yesterday, Khan quoted the doctors' report, which said it was difficult to be certain that the patients' injuries were caused by the reported overdose of radiation. It said: "Since the radiation overdose is relatively small for these patients, it is difficult at this time to clearly and unequivocally state that the observed injuries in these patients are, in fact, due to the specifically reported overdose for these 30 patients." The newspaper, however, focused largely on the finding that the 15 per cent overdose "may have been a contributing factor" in making some of the patients' injuries more severe.
The report was done by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) January 2012 Assistance Mission to T&T, on 30 of the 223 patients who received overexposure to radiation at the BLCTC for 18 months up to June 2010. The report came after the Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health requested assistance from the IAEA in the medical evaluation of the patients. The BLCTC is a private cancer-treatment institution in Port-of-Spain owned by Medcorp Ltd. The newspaper article said the affected patients incurred bills for medical care related to the radiation overdose at an associate company, St Clair Medical. Khan, the article further pointed out, had a private office at St Clair Medical until his appointment as a government minister, and his wife, Dr Carol Bhagan-Khan, still has an office there. Khan called yesterday's press conference in response to the article.
He said because it had sensationalised the findings, he had decided to make the report available to the rest of the media.
He said he received the report four weeks ago and was putting together a team to look at its findings and determine the way forward for three of the patients who needed further treatment. Asked if the treatment would be for radiation exposure, Khan said the report did not indicate that. He said the other 27 patients would continue follow-up treatment. He said the ministry was also looking at accessing care and payment for the three patients.
The ministry had put measures in place to create stricter regulations for private and public-sector radiotherapy units, the minister assured. Cabinet had also accepted radiation regulations which were sent to the Attorney General to be drafted into the Occupational Health & Safety Bill, he added. Bids for the construction of the National Oncology Centre would be out soon, Khan promised.