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New tech to detect radiation

A service owned by black women has been accredited to monitor occupational radiation exposure using advanced optical stimulated luminescence technology

Heard of dosimetry? That’s the measurement, calculation and assessment of radiation absorbed by an object, usually the human body. Now, in a first for South Africa, an accredited independent dosimetry service has been established to monitor and track occupational radiation exposure using advanced optical stimulated luminescence (OSL) technology.

A 51% black women-owned partnership, Dosimeter Services has been accredited by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) and approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) as a radiation control dosimeter service provider. The company is a member of the steering committee for the National Dose Registry: National Nuclear Regulator (NNR).

“OSL technology has become the international standard in personal radiation monitoring,” says radiologist Dr Nonceba Koranteng, co-owner of Dosimeter Services. “However, previously there was no approved local provider of personal radiation monitoring devices using this advanced technology.”

Through an enterprise and supplier development partnership, healthcare group Netcare and RAD Imaging Africa, jointly owned by radiologists Dr Koranteng, Dr Palesa Mutshutshu, and Dr Jacintha Adrigwe, have teamed up to fulfil the need for monitoring the doses of professionals that may be exposed to radiation due to their work practices.

By tracking monthly, annual and lifetime exposure, Dosimeter Services ensures that doses are monitored and reported to the companies which use their services. This is done to ensure that individual workers operate within safe regulated limits.  Currently, Dosimeter Services continuously monitors 2,750 radiation workers in both public and private health facilities and industries across the country, with a capacity to expand the service.

Having initially met while undergraduates at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits), the three women behind RAD Imaging Africa met up again when they registered as Registrars through the Wits radiology department.

“We dreamed of starting our own radiology practice, but soon realised it would require huge start-up capital and that there is a lot of competition in this space already,” says Dr Mutshutshu.

Dr Adrigwe says: “Radiation forms a critical, and increasingly important, part of modern medicine and medical technologies with therapeutic applications in the treatment of certain kinds of cancers and is also essential to diagnostic radiology technologies including x-ray and computed tomography.”

Radiation workers may include radiation oncologists, surgeons, interventional specialists, nurses, medical physicists, radiologists, radiographers and other medical practitioners working in hospitals as well as workers providing services in industrial applications where radiation monitoring is required.

“As medical radiation workers ourselves, we understand the importance of monitoring occupational exposure accurately and reliably,” says Dr Adrigwe. “There is a great responsibility on employers in the industry to ensure regulatory compliance in keeping exposure within the set limits.”

Meanwhile, the medical physicists working at Netcare hospitals, one of South Africa’s leading healthcare groups, developed, commissioned and successfully accredited this advanced OSL technology in-house for radiation workers at Netcare. Hendrik de Vos, Netcare’s national medical physicist manager and co-director of Dosimeter Services, says that Netcare places great emphasis not only on the protection and safety of patients but is equally focused on the safety of the healthcare workers who are exposed to radiation.

“Previously, before using OSL technology, Netcare hospitals’ monitoring of radiation workers was outsourced, however, we were actively investigating the possibilities of more reliable and advanced OSL technology for radiation monitoring and were engaging with regulators for approval in this regard,” he says. “At the time, no dosimetry provider was able to fulfil this need until our Netcare medical physicists commissioned the OSL technology and accredited the service locally. Netcare saw an opportunity to partner with the radiologists of RAD Imaging Africa to further develop and grow this service in South Africa while also facilitating broader participation in the healthcare supply value chain.”

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