The ESR joined the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) national workshop on improving radiology clinical and ancillary services on the island of Palau, which is located in the western Pacific Ocean, by sending a radiology expert to offer training and infrastructural advice. The joint mission is a result of the IAEA-ESR practical agreement on cooperation in the area of diagnostic imaging signed earlier this year.
Over a number of years, the ESR has established a productive working relationship with different departments within the IAEA, in particular its Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging Section, on issues of common interest such as education and training through expert-level participation in IAEA scientific conferences and technical meetings
An agreement signed in early 2017 focuses on capacity building and education, with both organisations committing to engage not only radiologists but also a wider audience, including referring physicians. This includes webinars, sponsored participation in ESR-organised training courses for healthcare professionals from low and middle-income countries, and the development of e-learning materials.
The national workshop, which took place on Palau in early November, is part of an IAEA project, which aims to improve the quality of radiology services and the ESR was approached to send an expert on its own expenses to train local radiologists, radiographers and referring physicians on basic imaging, radiation protection and awareness. As it is one of the ESR’s leading principles to serve the healthcare needs of the public through the support of science, teaching and research and the quality of service in the field of radiology, the invitation to support the mission was accepted immediately.
The ESR nominated Dr Annemie Snoeckx, senior radiologist at the department of radiology at the Antwerp University Hospital, who happily volunteered to support the IAEA’s mission on Palau.
The joint workshop took place at the Belau National Hospital, which has 80 beds, employs 22 medical doctors, and is the only hospital on the island. It mainly serves the people of Palau, which has around 20,000 inhabitants. The radiology department is small and currently consists of eight radiographers and nurses but no radiologist. Diagnostic tasks are done via limited teleradiology services.
The ESR’s participation in this mission is in line with the society’s endeavour to support the sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. The 17 SDGs cover a broad range of issues, including general health and well-being (SDG 3) which corresponds to the ESR’s core expertise area. This goal is sub-divided into individual targets with one of them aiming at increasing health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in least developed countries and small island developing states.
“Investing in technology is important, but without investing in people it is not worth much. Investing in human resources, which was the purpose of this mission, is crucial to providing and improving radiological services in order to benefit the people of Palau and I believe that there is a lot the ESR and IAEA can do in this regard. From a technical point of view, the radiology department is pretty well equipped, but I have been told that once there is a technical problem it usually takes quite a while to fix that. During our stay, we gave lectures for radiographers and physicians on basic topics such as positioning, interpretation of radiographs and basic CT, clinical indications for different imaging techniques, reviewed and discussed the radiology department’s standard operating procedures (SOP) as well as future plans and needs. ”, describes Dr Snoeckx her tasks during the mission.
The ESR/IAEA team in Palau was composed of Dr Thomas Pascual, nuclear medicine physician and IAEA technical officer for Asia and Oceania, Dr Asela Barroso, radiologist, and Dr Cheyen Molon, lecturer/docent in Medical Radiation Technology, both from the De La Salle University Medical Center in Manila, Philippines as well as Dr Snoeckx.