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State regulation of radiologic technologists has “little impact on public health and safety” and should be abolished, according to a staff report of an agency of the Texas Legislature.

Christine Lung, vice president of government relations and public policy for the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, begs to differ:

Everyone knows that radiation is a carcinogen. If performed incorrectly, it’s a direct risk to public health and safety.

Lung was interviewed by the Texas Tribune, an online nonprofit media organization based in Austin, Texas. She was commenting on a recommendation by the staff of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission that the state discontinue regulatory programs for 19 occupations, including nine in health care: medical radiologic technologists, medical physicists, perfusionists, contact lens dispensers, dietitians, dyslexia therapists and practitioners, opticians, personal emergency response system providers, and respiratory care practitioners.

The staff’s report, released in May, says state regulation of radiologic techs is unnecessary partly because techs already work “in a highly regulated environment.” The report explains thus:

Like perfusionists, they operate in healthcare facilities subject to numerous federal and state requirements, including separate regulation of the machines themselves, have private accreditation programs, and work in conjunction with several other highly trained healthcare professionals.

The report says Texas had 28,375 licensed medical radiologic technologists as of fiscal year 2013. Deregulating them, it says, would have little impact on public health or safety. The regulatory program for the profession, the report says, generates little regulatory activity. “Low numbers of complaints, enforcement actions, and enforcement actions typically reflect a lower risk of harm,” the report says.

Texas is one of 39 states that license radiologic techs, said Lung. Kameka L. Rideaux, a radiation therapist at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told the Texas Tribune that she delivers high doses of radiation to cancer patients and has to target very precisely. “It’s not just point-and-shoot X-ray,” she said. Rideaux is education coordinator for the radiation therapy program at MD Anderson and president of the Texas Society of Radiologic Technologists.

The Sunset Advisory Commission report said that one factor that frequently works in favor of regulation is “the active interest of the regulated community to be regulated and to exert control once regulation has been established.”

The commission, created by the Legislature in 1977, consists of five members each from the Texas House and Senate plus two members of the public. One of the current public members is a physician, Dawn C. Buckingham, MD, an oculoplastic and reconstructive surgeon with Eye Physicians of Austin.

The staff recommendations have apparently generated some public pushback. “We’ve all gotten a lot of phone calls,” the commission chair, State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, told staffers. She appointed a subcommittee to consider the recommendations and draft a modified proposal that “has a realistic chance of passing the Legislature.”

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