Radiation in hospitals prompts doctors to demand protection

Doctors say previous wage agreements did not take into account that technological advances make radiation much more widespread and pose greater risks.

311_medical x-ray (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_medical x-ray
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Radiation is no longer confined only to hospital radiology institutes for diagnoses of various disorders and treating cancer; it is being utilized in operating theaters, catheterization rooms and various other departments and thus endangers doctors and other medical staffers, the Israel Medical Association said on Thursday.
Services at some of the places where they are employed were disrupted due to the absence of doctors who attended an assembly at Tel Aviv’s Land of Israel Museum from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
The event was held to discuss risks and demand recognition from the Treasury for their efforts during the current campaign for a new wage agreement.
IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman, an anesthesiologist who spends much time in surgical theaters, protested the fact that many physicians are not recognized as at-risk professionals exposed to radiation.
He said that hospital maintenance and supervision of radiation machinery is poor and puts the doctors at risk.
Eidelman maintained that previous wage agreements did not take into account that technological advances make radiation much more widespread and pose greater risks.
The IMA chairman said that starting in July – current sanctions began two months ago – the doctors will function “according to the book” in maintaining strict regulations and will consider actions regarding their exposure to radiation.
IMA deputy chairman Dr.
Yisrael Eiling, who represents physicians working in Clalit Health Services hospitals, said, “All of us are exposed to radiation in significant amounts, but despite the fact that the law recognizes people exposed to radiation as radiation workers‚ with more vacation time and a glass of milk a day [to bind with radioactive isotopes in the body], the health system ignores us.”
Dr. Nimrod Rahamimov, another deputy chairman who works as a spinal surgeon, said that in a single operation to stabilize vertebrae, he receives “a third of the radiation that an ordinary person gets during a whole year. If the Treasury official negotiating with us were to get such radiation on the job, he wouldn’t be willing to continue working. But such bureaucrats refuse to recognize us as radiation workers.”
He urged his colleagues to stop agreeing to continue the situation, as the radiation can lead to cancer in doctors.
The doctors must be partners with hospital managers in the purchase of imaging and radiation equipment, added Dr. Gabi Bartal, head of imaging at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, who also helped author American and European guidelines for protecting doctors and patients in invasive radiology facilities.
Bartal noted that according to Israeli law, it is the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry that is responsible for protecting workers from radiation, but its experts do not take vigorous action when there are violations in exposures, he said.
Interventional cardiologists who perform angioplasties and other procedures with radiation are exposed every day to 60 to 200 minutes of radiation, and protective measures are not enough, said Bartal.
Physicians are supposed to wear “radiation badges” on the job to measure how much radiation they are exposed to, but if the results are “too high,” they are told to take a break, which means that they earn less. As a result, said Bartal, numerous doctors take off the badges when they have to work longer hours due to inadequate numbers of specialists on duty.
Prof. Ariel Roguin, a senior cardiologist at Rambam Medical Center, said that epidemiological data already shows there are doctors who may have developed hematological cancers, brain tumors, thyroid diseases and more cataracts as a result of their exposure to radiation. Others complain of back pain due to wearing heavy lead aprons to cover them when radiation is used.
Canadian studies have shown in recent years that a “significant number of physicians who had brain tumors were affected on the side of their heads that was closest to the radiation source,” he continued.
“We tend to accept radiation risks as necessary or the price of working in the profession and to avoid thinking about the problem. But protective equipment has not changed in two decades, and radiation is also used much more frequently and for longer periods.
The problem is that employers prefer to ignore the risks we face.”