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Jamaica opens first public nuclear medicine center in 20 years

par John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | July 12, 2022
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Jamaica has opened its first public nuclear medicine center in two decades.
Jamaica has opened its first nuclear medicine center in 20 years to provide cancer patients and others with access to a wider range of diagnostic and therapeutic care.

The center is located in the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, and will tend to patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease. Cancer patients, including those with prostate, lung and colorectal, will also be cared for there. Prior to this, diagnoses and care were provided through one of the country’s four teletherapy machines for these three cancer types.

The International Atomic Energy Agency helped form the center, as part of its Rays of Hope Initiative, which aims to help countries fight cancer. “This facility will benefit citizens of Jamaica, and wider Caribbean patients can now get cutting edge care at a fraction of the cost,” said Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the inauguration ceremony on June 30.

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The country’s last public nuclear medicine facility closed in 2002. For the new center, the IAEA installed a SPECT/CT scanner, a dose calibrator, equipment for radiopharmacy facilities, and phantoms, along with a supply of material and reagents for nuclear medicine. It also trained nuclear medicine technologists, radio pharmacists, radiologists, and medical physicists in nuclear medicine clinical applications, and is advising the country on how to establish an accredited training programme for professionals in the field.

The country’s independent regulatory body, the Hazardous Substances Regulatory Authority (HSRA) will oversee the safe and secure use of the center’s radioactive materials. IAEA will provide the HSRA with training, equipment for regulatory functions, and guidance on establishing an inventory database of radiation sources.

It also will continue supplying the center with PET/CT technology, radionuclide therapy, and training, which will help with establishing a healthy and stable population, as outlined in Jamaica’s national development plan, Vision 2030. “Through Rays of Hope, we will continue to support the expansion of radiation medicine capacities in Jamaica, in diagnosis as well as treatment, including through support for the development and training of the national cancer care workforce,” said Hua Liu, IAEA deputy director general and head of the Department of Technical Cooperation.

The center may, in the future, serve as a regional center for neighboring countries.

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