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Radiation safety of patients undergoing medical procedures

In Canada, doctors, hospitals, federal and provincial authorities, and others share a role in protecting the safety of patients who receive radiation doses for medical purposes (for example, use of radiation in cancer therapy). The overall Canadian regulatory framework establishes significant roles for Health Canada and the CNSC, as well as provincial health authorities.

Health Canada

  • Health Canada ensures the safety of medical devices that are used on people. Its licensing process verifies that medical devices function in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications. For example, it will confirm that a radiation-emitting device can accurately deliver the dose of radiation prescribed by a physician.
  • To further ensure patient safety, Health Canada has established the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI). CPSI members include representatives from national organizations and federal government and all provincial and territorial departments of health. The CPSI's strategic priority is to “improve the safety of patient care in Canada through learning, sharing and implementing interventions that are known to reduce avoidable harm”.

The Canadian Nuclear safety Commisison (CNSC)

The CNSC's role in patient safety is to ensure that the radiation received by a person for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes is done under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner. This is required in paragraph 2(2)(a) of the Radiation Protection Regulations.

The CNSC also focuses on the safety of the general public and workers at the facilities it licenses, as well as the protection of the environment. It ensures the safe operation of the equipment in medical facilities licensed by the CNSC by verifying that:

  • facilities are properly designed with sufficient radiation safety shielding and adequate safety systems
  • equipment used in these facilities is certified by the CNSC
  • persons operating the equipment are qualified and suitably trained in its safe use

To achieve these objectives, the CNSC carries out comprehensive regulatory activities that include licensing, certification of equipments and compliance inspections.

Provincial health authorities

The qualifications and responsibilities of physicians and other medical practitioners are established and regulated under provincial law through various professional colleges.

For more information, contact the CNSC.

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