I’m gathering that there is about as much worry over who tattled to me and the Crikey site about Western Australia’s PACS problems as there is with the troubles themselves. I’m probably being quite generous with that assessment. I thought those who are feeling heat from various places, deservedly or not, might want to hear about another whistleblower elsewhere in Australia.
From ABC News (which seems to be a different operation than our Disney-owned ABC News here in the States), comes the story of nuclear reactor operator David Reid:
Mr Reid has been employed by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) at the south Sydney facility for the past 28 years.
He was suspended indefinitely a year ago, accused of bullying.
He maintains it was an attempt to stop him from discussing safety issues at the radiopharmaceutical production facility, ARI.
He had been raising his concerns as the staff-elected health and safety officer. He took his job seriously, telling the ABC, “If you don’t follow the safety procedures and investigate the accidents, somebody is going to pay the ultimate price one day.”
In August 2008, a worker at the ARI facility dropped a vial of highly radioactive material in a containment cell, which went unreported for several hours.
“We started investigating and the more we investigated the more we couldn’t understand because it was such a massive dose,” Mr Reid said.
“None of our instruments could measure it – it was way off scale. We cleaned up everything and we still couldn’t get the dose down.”
Mr Reid said one worker received a substantial dose of radiation, mainly to his groin.
Vindication does not happen often, but yesterday the head of Australia’s Lucas Heights nuclear facility said a whistleblower was “absolutely correct” to raise serious safety concerns at the site.
The comments from ANSTO chief Dr Adrian Paterson contrast with the treatment that 55-year-old reactor operator David Reid has received at the hands of management over the past 12 months.
But Mr Reid remains suspended. ANSTO advised the Senate inquiry that Mr Reid was currently working on an agreed return-to-work program but had been offered an assignment with the organisation’s decommissioning team when he completed the program..
I expect this story will have a happy ending for Mr. Reid, although possibly not for the fellow with the irradiated groin.
We in the healthcare business have the goal of taking care of our patients. Everything we do is directed toward that end. When a piece of equipment, or a system, or a process, or whatever, impedes that goal, it needs to be dealt with properly. Those involved need the freedom to verbalize their observations, without fear of retribution. My sources of information for the “Blunder Down Under” right now aren’t feeling too comfortable, and that is very sad indeed. (I think most of them would rather experience radiation to the groin than let it be known that they spoke to me.) There should be no punitive measures taken toward them or any other “whistleblowers” who are attempting to improve a bad situation, especially when people’s very lives are involved.
Information is trickling in from WA, and I can report a little progress, but not much. The Bluescreen of Death has stopped appearing, and there are far fewer random errors that crash IMPAX during a case. (We certainly had our share of that here.) However, loading of CT series can be impossible, with lags of 15 minutes and more mentioned. It is taking the radiologists several extra hours every day to get through the workload. Improvement? Yes, but there is a long way to go.
Agfa, step up to the plate and fix this. You got our system running as well as it can, and I have faith that you can do this for my friends Down Under as well.
Apparently, I’ve been accused of being on the payroll of other PACS companies, which is definitely not the case. As I’ve said before, whatever love I have or don’t have for a product is based on the fact that I use it. That’s a little harder to dismiss, isn’t it?
And, since it has been said that the articles on this topic are full of inaccuracies, I invite all affected parties to contribute to correcting the mistakes. I will gladly publish any statement sent to me from Agfa, the WA Department of Health, or any other interested and affected party. If I need to set the record straight, I am very glad to do so.