According to Dr Rose Nyabanda, head of radiology at Kenyatta National Hospital, even in the second-hand car industry, there are limitations, but for this highly sophisticated medical equipment, there is no enforcement of importation or operational standards.
Businessmen, she says, are buying old units or soliciting donations abroad and setting up shop in urban centres, purposely to make money, thereby risking the lives of patients.
?Most of the radiation diagnostic tests Kenyans are being subjected to, mainly at commercial outlets, are not necessary and expose patients and machine operators to irreversible radiation risks,? says Nyabanda.
In the last ten years, she says, there has been an explosion in medical imaging technology in the country, and generally Africa, where unfortunately, there is a huge lack of regulatory capacity.
Radiologists, she says, are now demanding that these medical equipment, be removed from the control of businessmen and be put under the supervision of qualified radiographers and the Kenya Radiation Board be given enough capacity to effectively regulate the sector.
Just like pharmaceutical drugs have been put under the care of qualified pharmacists, Nyabanda says radiology equipment should strictly be under professionals. With the increasing cases of cancer and other non-communicable diseases, these technologies are crucial, but without proper control ?they are a double edged sword.?
The problem is so big that radiologists from all over Africa are meeting from Tuesday in Nairobi, to discuss the safety of radiology technologies and how not to fall into the pit of substandard and risky therapies.
The Nairobi meeting dubbed ?Pan African Congress on Radiology?, (Pacori)will also launch a continental campaign, AFROSAFE, to push for the responsible use of radiation medical facilities. ?We will ensure that any prescribed radiation procedure is absolutely necessary, is carried out safely and that data is preserved and available to regulators,? says Dr Nyabanda who is also the Pacori president.
According to Dr Vera Manduku, chairman Kenya Association of Radiologists, the forum also aims to ensure standards and guidelines of radiation medicine are established and observed.
?We want to, for instance, encourage a system which demands that anybody procuring these machines does so within national guidelines and regulations. This would reduce cases of obsolete and dose leaking technologies into the country.?
People who import such equipment, the say, must ensure regular and mandatory maintenance and calibration and such information must be made available to regulatory authorities on demand.
By GATONYE GATHURA, The Standard