Medical physicists at the forefront of the response to COVID-19 in Kuwait




At the onset of the pandemic, it was observed a significant increase of fear and stress amongst patients, who had their diagnostic or treatment appointments cancelled or even their treatment paused, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown announcement. Some patients were afraid to visit any health service, due to the fear of being contaminated with COVID-19.

This has resulted in widespread interruptions in everyday medical imaging services, with significant impact on patients with cancer awaiting potentially lifesaving treatment, as well as, those needing important routine diagnostic examinations.  However, the medical physicists have been at the forefront of the MOH response to coronavirus. The medical physicists were divided into groups, alternating shifts with no contact to each other, to minimize the potential risk of staff infection that could possibly result to interruption of medical physics services.

The dedication, commitment and professionalism of medical physicists and their core role to the continuation of the RT and diagnostic departments’ operations, offering high level services during the pandemic, are summarized in the following paragraphs.
 
Radiotherapy
From the time of the pandemic outbreak and lockdown announcement in March of 2020, the Kuwait Cancer Control Center Radiotherapy Department acted immediately to ensure the safety of staff and to treat all radiotherapy patients without any treatment interruption. The department ensured that the patients were treated in a timely manner and all the radiation therapy staff and patients were protected against the corona virus infection, following hospital infection control rules and regulations.
During this period, the radiotherapy physics unit in Kuwait Cancer Control Center has applied health precautions to ensure the safety of the staff while performing all physics duties without interruptions.  The radiotherapy physicists were divided into 3 groups, Group 1 and Group 2 were RT treatment planning physicists and Group 3 was dosimetry staff, and each group worked at specific days of the week. In this way, staff from different groups did not have any overlap, minimizing the risk of infection.
Furthermore, RT treatment planning workstations were relocated, so planning physicists were working in separate offices.  Patient specific RT treatment QA was performed in the afternoon, depending on the availability of RT machines, usually after finishing patient treatments. All essential meetings and communications between staff members were done electronically when possible. The radiotherapy physics unit worked during the weekends to perform all necessary monthly QA on all RT machines and related equipment. Although the radiotherapy physics unit was working on a reduced number of staff per day basis, no radiotherapy services were interrupted during the COVID-19 crisis.
The radiotherapy physics unit attended a virtual training session on generating statistics and reports in ARIA (Varian) and will be attending another virtual training session for patient specific QA software, as soon as new equipment for QA are being installed and calibrated by the unit.
 
Molecular Imaging
Besides routine daily duties, the following were also achieved in the Kuwait Cancer Center Imaging Department since March of 2020 by the Medical Physics team:
  • Annual performance QC testing for three SPECT/CT scanners.
  • Annual performance QC testing for two PET/CT scanners.
  • EARL PET Accreditation Certificate was obtained for 2020 after meeting successfully all QC requirements.
  • ACR Accreditation renewal process was done for the Siemens Symbia Intevo SPECT/CT scanner.
  • Annual performance QC testing was carried out for all dose calibrators in the department.
  • Renovation and upgrading of the radioactive waste storage facility was carried out.
  • Involved effectively in the radionuclide therapy of five patients with Lu-177 (dosimetry and safety).
  • Involved in the treatment of cancer patients, receiving treatment Iodine-131 in the isolation wards; some of them were positive for COVID-19.
  • Submitted articles to scientific journals.
 
Besides routine daily duties, the following were also achieved in Jaber Center Imaging Department since March of 2020:
  • A poster was presented in the virtual SNMMI 2020 meeting titled: “The impact of Motion Free deviceless respiratory gating on the quantitation of 18F-PSMA images in digital PET/CT.” by Dr. Hanan Aldosuari.
  • Arrangements were made for the staff to attend the SNMMI 2020 meeting online lectures.
  • CME using Microsoft Teams software started the online distance learning for the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training.
  • Distributed face shields to all medical staff.
  • Performed the EARL required test.
  • The medical physicist staff participated in the examinations of 15 FDG/NAF/PSMA patients per day, to take measurements for one of the ongoing projects.
  • Accepting QC testing was performed for a newly installed gamma camera.
  • Incident of contamination from a COVID-19 positive patient was successfully dealt with.

Dr. Meshari Al-Nuaimi
MEFOMP Vice President
Head of Radiation Physics Department
Kuwait Cancer Control Centre(KCCC)
State of Kuwait

September 9th 2020
mefomp reporter



              


New comment:
Twitter