September 1999


By Michael J. Katin, MD

As promised, the conclusion of the May column on inspections will be coming up in October. This further delay was made necessary by the need to include the obligatory and definitive Y2K column (cf. July, 1998, column) early enough in the year to allow it to be included in the soon-to-be-released hardbound edition of the Katin opinion columns from radiotherapy.com, the publishing of which is pending negotiations to include a foreword by Eli Glatstein, without which it will not and should not appear.

The imminence of Y2K is now starting to provoke an increasing number of activities by people who previously considered themselves too calm to be affected by all the speculation. This is not a new phenomenon to those of us who live in Florida, who wait until the third mention of the impending hurricane to start buying batteries and filling up water containers. Usually these people are too embarrassed to do this openly, and find themselves buying $150 worth of other things they don't need to cover up the battery purchase. The economy of Florida is directly tied to the number of hurricane warnings and the gain probably cancels out the total amount of damage from hurricanes each year. Similarly, the economy of the United States is likely to benefit from Y2K but sets up the scenario for collapse after January 1 as millions of Americans try to return generators, canned food, and weapons to the stores from which they were eagerly buying only a few months earlier (I got another one as a gift so I don't need this one; this crossbow is the wrong color; after I bought these five crates of Spam I found out my family kept Kosher; etc.).

How will this affect us in the radiation oncology field? I think most patients will prefer not to be treated on Monday, January 3, thinking that the linear accelerators will be putting out incendiary plasma rays due to a missed Y2K-dependent component in the deuterium injection reactor. And they may be right, although more likely the reason they won't be treated is that the office is flooded due to a shutdown of the local sewer pumping station, directing the contents of two miles of pipe into the toilet in the employees' lounge.

I would therefore recommend that we face facts and write off the first week in January, perhaps designating it as HCFA Appreciation Week to at least get us points with somebody, and hope that everything gets straightened out by January 10. Plus I can use the free time to return twenty pounds of beef jerky.

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com