Feds fine Montana hospital for lost radioactive materials

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The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a $3,500 fine and Confirmatory Order to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital in Bozeman, Mont., for security violations involving radioactive materials stored at its medical lab.

The violations were identified during an unannounced NRC inspection at the hospital on Jan. 27, 2010. The NRC determined hospital officials "willfully" failed to secure radioactive materials from unauthorized removal or access and failed to control and maintain constant surveillance of radioactive material as required. These violations contributed to the loss of a vial containing a small quantity of samarium-153, which is prescribed to patients with metastatic bone lesions who are having bone pain.

The NRC determined "willfulness' was involved because hospital employees, including the radiation safety officer, had previously raised concerns about lab security, but hospital managers did not adequately address them.

Hospital officials were given a choice of a pre-decisional enforcement conference, at which the issues would be discussed with NRC officials, or Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) which uses a mediator to resolve issues. They chose ADR and a mediation session was held on May 25 at NRC’s Region IV offices in Arlington, Texas.

As a result of mediation, the hospital has agreed to (1) pay a $3,500 fine; (2) hire a third-party organization to train hospital staff and managers on enforcement actions NRC can take for deliberate misconduct; (3) establish more effective training programs for staff; and (4) implement procedures to encourage workers to raise radiation safety concerns.

The NRC’s letter to the hospital, its enclosures and the licensee’s response will be made available to the public through the agency’s electronic reading room at: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams/html.