THE government is set to save millions of maloti spent in treating cancer patients in neighbouring South Africa and India after parliament this week passed the Radiation Protection Agency Bill of 2018.
The Radiation Protection Agency Act will allow for the construction of a cancer treatment facility in the country.
The chairperson of the Natural Resources, Tourism and Land Cluster portfolio committee, Mpalipali Molefe, moved for the adoption of the bill on Tuesday.
The bill seeks to establish a competent agency which will regulate the use of sources of ionising radiation or radio-active material in the application of nuclear science and its technology.
Mr Molefe said the bill would enforce use of nuclear science for peaceful and beneficial uses only, particularly in the health, agriculture, mining water, public safety and environmental sectors.
The bill also seeks to enforce responsible application of nuclear medicine in cancer treatment in Lesotho and economic growth in affected sectoral policies.
“The public, patients, workers and the environment will be protected against harmful effects of ionising radiation,” part of the committee’s report states.
“The committee recommends that the government should take serious caution when implementing Radiation Protection Agency Bill, due to its sensitivity.
“It also recommends that public officers employed in the agency should be permanent employees and that there should be a separate budget on the establishment of the Radiation Protection Agency.
“It also calls for public sensitisation on effects of radiation and an introduction of a safety office within the agency.”
The bill was read in parliament for the second and third time on Tuesday.
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This brings hope to cancer patients as there is hope that the government can now set up a hospital where cancer patients will be treated.
Addressing parliament on Tuesday, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Temeki Tšolo, said the objectives of the agency are to ensure that radiation resources and other radioactive materials are used exclusively for beneficial and peaceful purposes and provide for protection of human health and the environment against harmful effects of radiation hazards.
He also said that the functions of the agency will be to regulate activities and practices involving ionising radiation, maintain a personnel radiation dosimetry service, advise the government on the development of policies related to activities and practices regulated under the Act.
It will also take enforcement measures in the event of non-compliance with the Act and issue licenses to radiation protection officers.
The same agency is also expected to establish a system for the registration of licenses for radioactive material.
Under the radiation protection requirements, “a person shall not apply a medical diagnosis or therapy which uses radioactive material or any radiation sources on a patient unless the person is licensed by the agency to do so”.
“A person who wishes to apply a medical diagnosis or therapy which uses radioactive material or any radiation sources on a patient shall submit an application in a prescribed form to the agency.
“Where a person applies medical diagnosis or therapy which uses radioactive material or any radiation sources on a patient without a license, such person commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding M500 000 or to an imprisonment term not exceeding five years or both.
“As a way of protecting the public, a licensee licensed to apply a medical procedure shall take appropriate or necessary measures to protect the public from radiation exposure.
“Any person who contravenes these commits an offence and is liable to conviction to a fine not exceeding M30 000 or to an imprisonment term not exceeding 15 years or both.
“A person shall not import radioactive waste into Lesotho and anyone who does otherwise is liable to a conviction or fine of M100 000 000 or to an imprisonment of for a term not exceeding 30 years or both,” reads part of the Bill.
Supporting the Bill, Trade minister Tefo Mapesela said: “Basotho are dying of cancer of different forms and in the absence of this law even countries which might like to help in the intervention of cancer treatment may find it difficult to assist and we may not get a cancer hospital”.
For his part, legislator for Butha-Buthe constituency Motlohi Maliehe highlighted the importance of the timely adoption of the Bill into a law.
He also encouraged all the ministries with a stake in the radiation agency to source funding towards the estimated M3 million budget of the entity.
“This Bill is long overdue. Waiting for the next financial year means we will be too late so this matter must be addressed immediately as this will help in the treatment of cancer patients which has cost the country millions annually in therapy,” Mr Maliehe said.
Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, himself a cancer survivor said the adoption of the Bill into law was urgent.
“I appeal that we pass this Bill as soon as yesterday, so that we can get a hospital for our cancer patients.
“I am a true testimony of the power of radiation treatment and had it not been for it, I would have long died,” Mr Moleleki said.