Monday, February 18, 2019

DEP Reaches Settlement with Wayne County Hospital Over High X-Ray Radiation Levels at Community Health Center

Wilkes-Barre, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today it has reached an agreement with Wayne Memorial Health System, Inc. (WMHSI) in Honesdale, Wayne County on a $15,600 civil penalty for violations relating to radiation sensors on a system-owned X-ray unit. DEP has determined that some patients at the system’s community health center in Waymart may have been exposed to high levels of radiation.

“The department’s main concern is the health and well-being of patients at this facility”, said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Facilities that utilize equipment with radiation have a responsibility to comply with regulations and that did not happen here. This agreement will help ensure this does not happen in the future and patients are not at risk.”

During an inspection in September 2018, DEP staff discovered that sensors on the recently installed X-ray unit, which determine radiation exposure time, were not properly adjusted at the time of installation, causing the sensors to shut off while the unit was operating. Due to that malfunction, X-ray technicians were relying on the unit’s back-up timer to determine skin exposure time. The back-up timer was set at one second, which, under national radiation guidelines, is too long of an exposure time. As a result, the X-ray unit lacked the means to terminate radiation exposure at a pre-set time. This malfunction caused some patients to be exposed to radiation levels sixteen times the acceptable national average. 

The national measurement for radiation skin exposure is 320 milli Roentgen (mR), and because of the time limit set on the back-up X-ray unit, some patients at the health center had skin exposure of over 5100 mR. Those exposure levels are a violation of the Radiation Protection Act.

The DEP encourages anyone who may have had X-rays at the community health center between May and September of 2018 to consult a medical professional to discuss any concerns.

The department determined on September 26, 2018, that WMHSI had repaired the X-ray unit and, during a follow-up inspection, determined it was in compliance with DEP radiation regulations.

The agreement also calls for WMHSI to submit a copy of its Quality Assurance Plan, including its plans for the use of the x-ray unit, by February 2019 for DEP’s approval, and be instituted at the facility within two weeks of its approval. The facility must also begin, by March 1, 2019, providing copies of its daily tracking system of radiation exposure to DEP.

For more information on radiation exposure please go to DEP’s Radiation Protection webpage:

MEDIA CONTACT: Colleen Connolly, 570-826-2035

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