[ RadSafe ] Hospital workers subjected to excessive radiation, lawsuits claim

Franz Schönhofer franz.schoenhofer at chello.at
Mon Jan 20 16:01:09 CST 2014

Dear all,
I am somehow privileged, that I happen to know Susan personally. Yes it is 
her first name, Gawarecki cannot be a first name!

This article itself really bothers me a lot. I have been working with the 
Austrian Standard on shielding of rooms, where radiation is used for medical 
purposes. There we defined all the conditions necessary to prevent any 
radiation harm to both patients and people outside the area of radiation 
application. It was more or less what has been followed since years by the 
hospitals. Whether these conditions are met is controlled yearly. No such 
installation will be permitted to be installed or operating without a 
control that all requirements are met.

Is this really USA-specific? I remember this "Rumsfeld", who called many 
European countries (explicitely Austria) as "old", because we did not send 
fighting troops to Afghanistan (which is btw prohibited by our 
constitution). If this article is true - I am not convinced - then there is 
a lack of oversight and licensing. Otherwise it would not be difficult to 
fend off these claims.

Best regards,


-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht----- 
Sent: Monday, January 20, 2014 8:48 PM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Hospital workers subjected to excessive 
radiation,lawsuits claim

Susan (at least I think that is your first name),

    I really appreciate receiving this article.  In my experience working at 
a hospital it is all too common for the sales people to make statements that 
will lead the purchaser to under estimate the expenses involved with the 
installation of a major pieces of equipment such as a CT.  Additionally, 
often time the folks in Radiology pushing the acquisition and the hospital's 
engineering project personnel fail to include the Radiation Safety Officer 
(RSO) or Medical Physicist in the earliest stages of acquisition and 
planning, and then when the project is in the middle of construction the 
engineers will complain that it's too expensive to issue a change order for 
the project.  The RSO or the Medical Physicist can't very well give 
professional advise on projects if they aren't included anywhere in the 
acquisition, planning and construction process.  In other words, if the 
radiation safety professionals are left in the dark about acquisition and
construction this is an example of what happens.

    Based on the article, it appears that this CT suite was constructed 
without a shielding plan, and that a post-construction shielding survey 
wasn't performed.  I find it hard to believe that this is in accordance with 
Tennessee state law.  I'd have to dig through the American Association of 
Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) publications, but I am fairly certain this 
isn't in accordance with AAPM standards, please see 

Roy Herren

From: S L Gawarecki <slgawarecki at gmail.com>
To: RadSafe <radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu>
Sent: Monday, January 20, 2014 10:23 AM
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Hospital workers subjected to excessive radiation, 
lawsuits claim

Hospital workers subjected to excessive radiation, lawsuits claim

OAK RIDGE — Hospital technologists were exposed to excessive radiation at
Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, five lawsuits filed this week allege.

A wall between the CT scan room and the control room in the hospital’s new
Emergency Department area lacked a lead-lined barrier to stop the
radiation, according to the Anderson County Circuit Court complaints.

Computer tomography, or CT scans, involve computer-processed X-rays that
are used to diagnose ailments.

CT scans are “exponentially more powerful” than conventional X-rays, said
Clinton attorney John Agee, who filed the lawsuits.

Technologists in the control room behind the wall that lacked lead lining
were repeatedly exposed to scatter radiation, Agee said.

Excessive radiation exposure can lead to cancer.

Several of those technologists now have symptoms “that would be compatible
with radiation exposure,” the attorney said.

They will now have to take regular health screens for cancer, he said. Some
symptoms of excessive radiation exposure take years to develop, Agee said.

He said family members waiting in a nearby room for relatives undergoing CT
scans may also have been exposed to the scatter radiation.

“There’s a difference between 40 exposures in a shift,” Agee said of the
technologists’ situations, “as opposed to one.”

Agee said it’s “most likely that another 10 lawsuits are going to be
filed,” with most of them on behalf of current and former X-ray and
radiologic technologists.

Two of the first five plaintiffs are women who were pregnant at the time of
their alleged exposures. At least one child born after the exposures “is
suffering from a severe illness,” said Agee’s wife, Clinton attorney Lea
Ellen RidenourAgee.

“The whole thing is just heartbreaking,” she said.

John Agee said that after it was discovered last month that lead lining was
missing from the wall, “not a whole lot of information has been voluntarily
given to these people, and they’re obviously concerned about their health.”

“I hate it for these people,” he said. “To me it’s hard to understand why
it happened.”

Named as defendants in the initial lawsuits, filed Monday, are Covenant
Health of Knoxville, which operates Methodist Medical Center, Rentenbach
Constructors Inc. of Knoxville, the contractor that built the hospital’s
new emergency department that opened in February 2006, and TEG Architects
LLC, the Jeffersonville, Ind., firm that designed the project.

Hospital spokeswoman Crystal D. Jordan said Methodist Medical Center
strongly refutes the accusations.

“We maintain an active and ongoing radiation quality and compliance program
with specific procedures to monitor safety.

“Base on the results of this program, it has been verified that we have met
all safety standards for radiation exposure,” Jordan stated in an email.

John Agee said concerns began emerging when X-rays stored in a room next to
the CT scanning Room “became cloudy from scatter radiation.”

Lea Ellen Agee said technologists “attempted to take an X-ray through the
wall, and were successful.”

An employee of General Electric “came in and took some measurements in some
adjoining rooms,” John Agee said, “and conveyed to Methodist there was a

Lea Ellen Agee said the suspect wall was torn down in December, and the
lack of lead lining was confirmed then.

John Agee said a former radiological technologist at Methodist Medical
Center, Clinton resident Mike Phillips, told him about the situation.

Phillips is one of the first five plaintiffs, along with two current
radiological technologists, Keith Gillis of Knoxville and Mary Ridenour of
Andersonville, who was pregnant at the time she was subjected to the
scatter radiation.

Also filing suit were current X-ray technologists Connie Raby of Clinton
and Micah Noelle Lewellen of Knoxville, who also allegedly received
excessive radiation throughout her pregnancy.

Phillips and Raby in their lawsuits allege they have had “thyroid problems,
headaches, trouble sleeping and other problems. “

Gillis has had seizures and memory loss, while Lewellen has “significant
medical problems, according to their complaints.

The lawsuits state the defendants failed to have qualified personnel check
on the installation of lead barriers, and that federal and state standards
about radiation exposure were violated.

The complaints seek compensatory and punitive damages, but no specific
amounts are listed.

*Susan Gawarecki*

ph: 865-494-0102
cell:  865-604-3724
SLGawarecki at gmail.com
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