Companion bills in the West Virginia Senate and House of Representatives would repeal a 40-year-old law that protects patients from potential radiation overexposure during medical imaging and radiation therapy procedures.
Introduced by Sen. Craig Blair and Rep. Daniel Hamrick, Senate Bill 195 and House Bill 2681 would eliminate the West Virginia Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Technology Board of Examiners. The board oversees the licensing program for the radiologic technologists who administer ionizing radiation during medical imaging and radiation therapy procedures. The state has more than 3,100 certified radiologic technologists licensed by the board.
Radiologic technologists and radiation therapists operate some of the most sophisticated and highly technical equipment used in health care today. They are responsible for radiation protection measures, radiation physics, patient positioning and equipment protocols. Under the state’s current licensure law, radiologic technologists must graduate from an accredited educational program, pass a national certification examination and earn annual continuing education credits to ensure that their skills are up to date in order to provide high-quality patient care.
According to West Virginia Society of Radiologic Technologists President Jackie Johnston, lawmakers are putting patients’ health and safety at risk in an effort to reduce government oversight of health professions. “Patient safety comes first. You wouldn’t want to be treated by a doctor who didn’t go to medical school and never passed the board examination, or get your prescriptions filled by an unlicensed pharmacist who didn’t go to pharmacy school. The state owes its citizens the assurance that if you need a radiologic image or a radiation therapy treatment, you are imaged or treated by a radiographer or a radiation therapist who graduated from an accredited radiologic educational program and who has passed the national board examination and is an expert in radiation protection measures.”
Passage of S.B. 195 and H.B. 2681 would allow personnel with no education or training in radiation safety measures, radiation protection best practices or equipment operation to perform medical imaging or radiation therapy procedures. “By eliminating requirements, West Virginia is conceding that uneducated, unqualified and unprepared personnel could perform radiologic technology duties, which puts patients at risk for errors, multiple exams and radiation overexposure,” said Johnston.