The radiation handling practices at George Washington University Medical Center have been revamped following several federal inspections that resulted in fines against the hospital totaling $2,500.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is responsible for monitoring the use of radiation in medical facilities, cited the hospital for 12 safety violations last year, including improper disposal of radioactive materials and lax measurement of employe exposure to them.
The hospital initially asked federal agency to drop the fines, but the agency insisted that there had been a pattern of problems at the hospital, which is a large user of radioactive isotopes in patient diagnoses.
"We really did not feel that all the citations were weighted with reality," said L. Thompson Bowles, dean for academic affairs at George Washington University. "But rather than dispute it for any length of time, we did pay the fine."
One of the fines was a $500 penalty incurred because several of the problems had not been corrected since a 1980 inspection. A fine of that magnitude occurs only once or twice a year in this region, which includes all medical facilities within the Middle Atlantic and New England states, according to John E. Glenn, director of the licensure and inspection section of the NRC's Philadelphia office.
Federal inspectors made a surprise, follow-up inspection last January and found only one minor problem -- failure of the staff to perform regular quality assurance tests on an isotope generator, particularly on the weekends.
"Things were very much improved," said Glenn, who noted that no fine was imposed.